After 6 months, our worship service will include one of the visible displays of the gospel message: the Lord’s Supper. We will eat of the bread and drink of the cup and remember the glorious truths of the gospel: Christ’s body was nailed to the cross to take the curse upon himself that should have been ours; Christ’s blood was spilt to make a new way of relating to God that is not based on our works or sacrifices but on his work and sacrifice for us.
While some practiced virtual communion during the lockdown, our church opted not to make a very tangible expression of gospel truths something disconnected from our physical presence. There is something special and sacred about sharing this meal together. And we want to focus and remember what is sacred and special about this act.
First, we can physically practice communion together. Paul commends this practice in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul points out how this meal ought to bring us together: “When you come together to eat, welcome one another” (1 Cor. 11:34). Second, this meal is a meal of thanks. Some churches call this meal the eucharist, taking the Greek word associated with communion (eucharistoo) and anglicizing it. This fancy Greek word simply means “to give thanks” and reflects our desire: we want to thank God for the privilege of gathered worship, for his nourishing and sustaining us in Christ during our time apart, and for the freedom from the penalty and power of sin Christ has purchased for us.
But communion won’t look the same this weekend as it has in the past. We won’t have trays passed around; we will pick up our own communion package on the way in to the sanctuary. We might feel a little awkward about peeling off the layers of a pre-packaged wafer and cup. Some won’t eat the wafer because it contains gluten. Still others will be thinking about how they don’t want to spill the juice on their clothes.
We could focus on how things aren’t the same. Or we could consider how Christians have been resilient throughout the ages to practice this meal of thanksgiving. Our practice of individual cups and pieces of bread is not a longstanding tradition – most churches throughout the history of Christianity have had a common loaf and cup, taking the cue from 1 Corinthians 10:16-17: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, since all of us share the one bread.”
At the end of the First World War, when tuberculosis and the Spanish flu were rampant, Christians moved to individual pieces of bread and individual cups to avoid contagion associated with the common cup.
So communion might be slightly different. But the message is the same: Christ died for you. One day we will feast with him and all of our hungers and thirsts will be satisfied by him.
So come prepared to worship the Lord this weekend as we seek to be strengthened spiritually by the body and blood of Christ!
PS: If you want to see what communion will be like this weekend, please take 2 minutes to watch this video!