While in Jerusalem some years ago, we visited the Upper Room. It had long since been turned into a small chapel, and as we sat on the wooden pews, a tour guide took us through the story of Jesus’ communion with the disciples. Afterwards, one of the students I was with asked about the authenticity of this site as the actual location of the Upper Room. The tour guide smiled and then told us about the six other Upper Rooms in the vicinity. Apparently an ambitious tourist could go around and partake of the sacrament in seven Upper Rooms in an afternoon.
Honestly, if I had the time, I might have done just that. But before I begin to discuss Communion, I want to get a couple things out in the open. Raised as a spiritual mutt, I grew up in Episcopalian, Lutheran, and Pentacostal denominations. The first two believe in transubstantiation, the idea that the bread and wine are in actuality the body and blood. Our modern usage of language does not jive with mystery very well, so nowadays the irreverent ask just how large Jesus must be if He is biologically represented at the sacrament of Communion. To reduce transubstantiation to this question only shows the ignorance and disrespect of the asker.
On the other side of the aisle, non-denominational churches as well as mainline Protestants such as Baptists and Presbyterians regard the bread and wine (or grape juice) as mere symbols of the body and blood of Christ. In relegating Communion to the mere symbolic, I have often seen tables with juice and crackers in the corner of the room for those who feel so inclined. Even when Communion is treated with more respect, it is rarely celebrated more than once every three months. So much for doing it often in remembrance.
I am not going to solve or discuss those poles more than to merely mention them because I want to suggest a new way of delving into the Last Supper.
Sacraments are by virtue of their name, sacred and thus have spiritual power.
One ought not to dive into a baptismal font lightly, nor should anyone take Communion without understanding the consequences of the sacrament. Marriage too is a sacrament, and perhaps the only one we encourage people to consider carefully.
Sacraments have power. Real power. To ritualize Communion is to perhaps make it more available to those who desire it as well as to risk merely practicing religion. But let me introduce the word, essence. The word, symbol, is somewhat weak. After all, you are right now reading symbols on a page. Those symbols might convene themselves into a coherent meaningful though, or they might not. As a former English professor, I can attest that the “might not be coherent” happens more than the coherent and meaningful thought.
But the power of Communion is not in what it represents, but in WHO is represented right there in the room with you.
Communion is the very essence of Christianity. It is the recognition of the incarnation of God as man, in which we take part by taking Jesus into our very bodies.
You Are What You Eat
Whether your theology tends toward the more Catholic or Protestant interpretations is beside the point. The act of taking Communion is the act of taking in Christ into your very self. The wafer and the wine break down and touch every cell of your body.
To take Communion is to invite the Godhead into your body, soul, and spirit and incarnate the Presence of God in every aspect of your life.
See the power now? This isn’t about sentiment. This is commitment. This isn’t sentimental metaphor. This is incarnation.
Do This In Remembrance
To remember something is to think on it. Relive it. Brood over it. When I take Communion, I sit in my little pew and say to the Lord, “I remember You. I remember what You did. I remember who I was and who I am now.” I know a few people who experienced healing and deliverance through the act of Communion. To take Communion is like telling your spouse you love them every day. You let them know in this small act that you think about them, you acknowledge their importance in your life, and that they matter to you. Communion is just that. Communing with Jesus. We remember you, Jesus. We think about you. We brood on the sacrifice you made for us.
Unless We Do This
Jesus had some pretty strong words that sent a number of new and old recruits to the cause stumbling home. “Unless you eat my body and drink my blood, you have no part in me,” Jesus said. And this was before the Last Supper. Scripture is pretty clear about the importance of baptism. But this scripture, words spoken by Jesus, is often ignored in reference to Communion. I say that because I have attended church for forty-two years. Only once has that verse been reference in regards to Communion, and we did not celebrate the sacrament at that service. Communion is not an option, a time filler, or a good way to emotionally manipulate your congregation.
Communion is a way of life.
Like the branch connected to the life-giving vine, we must commune in order to produce fruit. We must commune often. And while we are living a life in union with the Lord, we must intentionally partake of the bread and the wine. By doing so, we invite God’s will in and through our lives. So take eat. Take, drink. Do this at home and at church. In your small groups. By yourself. Eat of the body and drink of the fruit of the vine. And as His life flows through you, remember Him until there is no part of your life, past, present, or future that is not soaked in the Presence of God.
Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. John 6:56