Every Sunday, our church observes communion. For some people, it’s enjoyable, a beautiful opportunity to physically remember Jesus’ sacrifice. For many of us though, communion can be a confusing and awkward part of worship. We count the seconds the people in front of us stand at the table and think, “I wonder what they’re praying up there?” We look around and ask ourselves, “Am I supposed to stop singing in line or when I get to the table?” When it’s finally our turn, we hesitate, “Do I pray and then dip the bread or is it the other way around…Am I doing this right?”
If this is you, let me start by telling you what this post is not about. It’s not about laying down ground rules for communion. Honestly, there aren’t too many of them. We know that communion is only for believers to partake in. We know that it involves repentance and self-examination and that it shouldn’t be an occasion for gluttony or factions (1 Cor. 11:17–22, 28–29). Other than that, the Bible doesn’t get too specific.
Scripture does use one word over and over though when speaking about communion. It’s “Remember.” When we realize that communion is about remembering and not about ceremony, it brings peace to our souls. We can mess up ceremony. We can’t mess up remembering unless, well, we forget to do it. Sometimes, obeying Christ just means showing up.
Ok, you think, “Well I’ve shown up, I’m at the table; now how do I remember Christ any differently than I did 30 seconds ago when I was sitting in my chair?” Well, here are two suggestions:
The first is to focus on the bread and juice in front of you. About a decade ago, the band, Jars of Clay, came out with a hit song called, “The One Thing That I Know.” In it, they asked Jesus, “Flesh and blood? Is it really so elemental?” That question illustrates a common struggle that we all have, to believe that the enormity of our sins could be forgiven through one man’s flesh and blood. After all, doesn’t it take more than that? Communion shouts back a resounding, “No! Not as long as it’s the flesh and blood of Jesus!” As you look at the juice and bread in your hands, remember that real blood and real flesh from a real God-man was really shed for you. In that somber moment, you are literally tasting and seeing that the Lord is good. Let communion take the Gospel off of your theological bookshelf and put it into your hands and mouth.
Then, as you eat, recognize the obvious, “Wow, this tastes good.” This is to remind us of how something as terrible as the crucifixion becomes a sweet and nourishing truth to our souls. If you’ve ever fasted before communion, this point is made all the more clear. (You could try a simple breakfast fast one Sunday to prepare yourself for communion.) As you move back to your chair, allow the goodness of the food, the goodness of the Gospel, to lead you back into singing praises. Forget about the peripherals, you’ve just experienced the depth of the tragedy of sin and the sweetness of Christ’s victory. Stay there, my friend, and glorify God by remembering.
A guest post by Aaron Wilson…