The lights dimmed and somber music filled the hall as the ushers solemnly carried the bread and wine forward for communion. The pastor emphasized the broken body and spilled blood of Christ as he talked about Jesus’ command to remember him. We sat in silence and prayed as the bread and wine were distributed. It was a time of quiet reflection. On this occasion it stood in stark contrast to an inspiring sermon the pastor had just given about the joy of being in union with Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
I wanted to stand up and shout Hallelujah at the end of the sermon, not sit in quiet reflection over the broken body. I wanted to celebrate our union with Christ by sharing the joy with others. It was at that point I determined to examine the way I offer communion to my congregation.
I shared with my congregation that communion is not about the crucifixion—it is about our unity with God. The word means “sharing in common.” Jesus, the bread of life, shared his life with us. Breaking bread is a symbol of that shared life. Jesus, our Redeemer, shared his love for us by laying down his life—this is the greatest love. The cup represents Jesus sharing his love.
When we take communion, we are sharing in Jesus’ life and his love. This love and life didn’t begin at the Lord’s Supper. Communion actually started before the foundation of the earth when you and I were chosen to be in him (Ephesians 1). We were chosen to share in the love and the life shared by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Communion is about God’s desire to share himself with us by determining to adopt us as his sons and daughters. It’s about being one with each other and with the Father as Jesus was one with the Father and is one with us (John 17).
It is appropriate at times to remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us when we participate in communion. But it’s also appropriate and right to remember that communion is a reminder that God has invited us to participate in what he is doing in the world. One of the reasons Paul called communion a blessing is because it is about our participation with Christ’s sharing his life and his love with all.
When Jesus told us to remember him, he wasn’t asking us to focus on his suffering, but to focus on his love for us and for the world. I look forward to the time when all of us share in the joy of communion while shouting praises to the One who brought us together.
Rick Shallenberger, 2012