You Are What You Eat: Communion Reimagined

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 Pentecostal 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 merely 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.communion

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 a 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. 

CommunionLike 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


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11 Replies to “You Are What You Eat: Communion Reimagined”

  1. hisdearlyloveddaughter says: Reply

    Wow! This was very thought provoking! While we’ve never taken communion lightly, I wonder if we don’t take it often enough in our family. I’m definitely going to ask my husband to read this so that we can discuss it further. Thanks for writing it! I love it when someone makes me pause and think about something I likely wouldn’t have thought about on my own!

  2. My pastor has said to make sure that when we take Communion, that we take it with “clean hands”…

  3. I don’t know… Yet… If I agree with every single thing you said. But, I greatly appreciate your giving your thoughts from both sides of the fence as it were. Further, I couldn’t Greemore that it is a sacrament it is often taken for granted. The word sacrament is not to be taken lightly. Certainly, The act of a sacrament should not be taken lightly as it often is.

  4. There are so many different views on communion. Sometime I think it’s just to go back to the Bible and not over think it.

  5. I was raised in a church that practiced regular communion and a family that stressed both it’s sacredness and importance. But my current church does not offer communion regularly and I don’t really know why. I do know that we should do it more often because it helps put us in a place of atonement and openness with God.

  6. I use to be part of churches that did communion every week. I miss that. It was a good way to weekly force me to examine myself more deeply and recommit to making the week count for Christ. Not that I don’t try to do that anyway, but it just seemed to make it more official. Like you said–it’s a sacrament!

  7. Love your perspective on this! We definitely take communion too lightly often times!

  8. Communion is so important. The church body I’ve grown up in and worship with today takes it very seriously. I didn’t realize until later in life that others didn’t take it but a few times a year. It is such a special time, I can’t imagine not doing it often.

    This was a wonderfully written post.

  9. I believe the taking of Communion must be a sacred time and given its due weight so that we may take it “in remembrance” of all God has done. Perhaps the hardest part of the Communion ceremony for me is the time we stop and bow our heads and confess our sins. My mind wanders, or lingers on one of the twenty things I want to lay before Jesus. It’s humbling, my lack of focus over something as big as Jesus’ sacrifice.

    I love how our church does Communion. We stand together in small groups around tables set up along the front of the sanctuary and we share and eat together…we commune. It feels sacred and special in that smaller space with these few people gather all around.

  10. elizabethfstewart says: Reply

    Such a powerful and thought provoking post!

  11. Alice, I appreciate this post, and will use the word – essence- in my thinking from now on.
    My autistic son with a doctorate has recently been confirmed Catholic, so we have discussions like this often.
    I have not been coping with how communion was takien at a gently charistmatic church, and have recently joined a charismatic Brethren church, who take it reverently, after first searching hearts, which to me is an imperative.
    This post was just so timely and so very helpful, and I am deeply appreciative of this and all that you write.
    I have been in church 67 years, but am a life-long-learner, and I am learning so much from you, these days.
    May God Bless you, and may everything you set your hand to, prosper.

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