WHAT IS COMMUNION AND WHY DO WE TAKE IT?
Have you ever wondered why we eat a small cracker and drink little plastic cups of grape juice in every service at Real Life Church? Chances are, you’re not the only one. For thousands of years, the global Church has continued a practice called communion, otherwise known as the “Lord’s Supper” or the “Eucharist” in other traditions or denominations. Communion uses “bread” as a symbol for Jesus’ body and “wine” as a symbol for His blood. At first glance, it seems pretty weird. Why would we talk about eating Jesus’ body and drinking Jesus’ blood? But once you grasp where this practice came from and what it symbolizes, it can be beautiful and meaningful.
Technically, Jesus started the tradition of communion. He instructed His followers to use bread and wine to remember the sacrifice He was going to make when He died on the cross. The Apostle Paul talks about this in his letter, 1 Corinthians 11:23-28. Jesus called Himself “the bread of life,” which means that we’re nourished by Him in a spiritual sense. The early Church celebrated Jesus by taking communion, sometimes every day (Acts 2:42-46). They saw that every time they gathered around a table to eat and drink (communion = community), it was a chance to recognize Jesus and thank God for life and one another.
Taking communion doesn’t make you a follower of Jesus, save your soul or get you to heaven. The intent is not for us to mindlessly perform a ritual, but to intentionally set aside time to remember what Jesus has done, why he did it, and how we can enact that same sacrificial service to one another and to everyone we encounter in the world. In other words, it’s not the crackers and grape juice that are important, it is what (or who) they point to and represent. Communion is our celebration of what Jesus has done, is doing, and will continue to do in and through us in a symbolic, yet embodied, practice. It helps us to remember who we are and what we’re here to do. As one musical artist has put it, “May the bread on your tongue leave a trail of crumbs to lead the hungry back to the place you are from.” He gives us the physical food that we need to survive and the spiritual nourishment we need to keep taking our next steps with Him and helping others to do the same.
There are many different churches that take the sacrament of communion in various ways and at different times throughout the year, and we respect those practices. At Real Life Church, though, we practice communion every week for a couple of reasons. First, and related to the aforementioned Acts 2:46 which says, “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts…” Virtually every time the early church met, they took communion. And second, it is important to us as a church that this “meal” be at the center of our worship services. Even more than the music, or the messages, coming together intentionally every week, no matter how different or diverse we are as a people, and sharing in this symbolic practice of unity and reverence to Jesus is a highlight of our gathering together. It keeps us mindfully aware of how God is working in our lives, our community, and in our world and beckons us to reflect on how we can join God in that work.
Another thing worth mentioning is that we keep an “open table” of communion for anyone who wants to participate. All are welcome at Jesus’ table no matter where you are in your life, what you have done, or even if you’ve been baptized or consider yourself a “Christian.” Jesus ate with everyone and we want to have that same open invitation to anyone who feels led. So, if you have decided to partake, cheers! And welcome to the table.