I have recently had reason to reflect on our practice of partaking of communion each week as part of our time spent together. What is it about the Lord’s Table that is so important? Why do we in our fellowship choose to observe it every week?
Right from the beginning Christians (before they were called Christians ) gathered together and broke bread (celebrated the Lord’s Supper). Jesus commanded this, “Do this in remembrance of me” ( Luke 22: 19 ). But exactly what is it that we are supposed to do? How is it that we are supposed to do it?
What is the key? What are the core elements? What does scripture teach us about this symbolic feast? As society changes and our culture changes what about Jesus’ truth and his commands remains the same?
Notice how important the sense of community is: Jesus said before partaking of it, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22: 15)
The key was to celebrate it together.
Passover was not celebrated individually. It was celebrated as a family. In Exodus 12 and again in Leviticus 23 the Jews were given instruction on how to celebrate the passover. They were to get together as a family and eat the meal quickly, with their outside clothes on; ready to go at a moment’s notice. It was to be done together. Small families or any family that could not eat a whole lamb were to gather with neighbouring families and share the meal together with them instead. You cannot celebrate Passover by yourself. It is not possible.
Look how the first Christians celebrated it:
Acts 2: 42: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
Acts 2: 44 – 46: “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 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”
Acts 20: 7 “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight”
Every time breaking bread appears in the book of Acts the theme of togetherness is there. Paul has instructions for the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians and in Chapter 10 Paul speaks against idol feasts, why?
“Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?”
1 Cor 10: 16
The Lord’s Supper is a sharing of fellowship together but also with Christ. He is present at our meal. We cannot share this with demons who are worshiped in temples and with idols.
We share it together with our Lord.
In Chapter 11 Paul specifically addresses the way the Corinthian church shared in the Lord’s Table. Paul chastises them for the way they partake of the Lord’s Supper. Paul says, “Your coming together does more harm than good.” (1 Cor 11: 17)
Curiously, Paul does not directly tell us anything here about how to partake of the Lord’s. Paul instead tells us what not to do. What was wrong here? They would gather for ‘love feasts’ (pot lucks) and we are to assume they did it on the first day of the week. They were getting drunk. The rich would arrive early and gorge themselves leaving nothing for the poorer members. They were rude and inconsiderate and were missing the point of celebrating the Lord’s Supper entirely: what is the point?
To share in it together. To collectively proclaim the Lord’s death
In verse 27 Paul says, “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.” Paul is condemning those who neglect the brotherhood in the way they partake. An unworthy manner has nothing to do with performing this rite well enough. It has to do with showing consideration for each other.
None of us are solemn enough, or righteous enough to partake of this in a worthy manner. We cannot bow our heads low enough or concentrate hard enough, or be quiet enough to be worthy of sharing in this symbolic feast.
Look at how Paul ends the section in v. 33, “So then my brothers when you come together to eat, wait for one another.”
To be worthy is to share in it together with a collective spirit of joy and celebration. As you share in this bread together this morning consider: At our church, over a hundred of us here today proclaim Jesus Christ as our Lord and have been buried with him in baptism. Some of those who share communion have been doing it for over 70 years, some less than a month.
Whether you were humiliated or scorned for the sake of Jesus this week, or if you didn’t think about Jesus once this week. You are still part of this family. Partake this morning with a renewed sense of purpose. Whether your steps with Christ this week were stronger as the week went on or whether you abandoned your walk and sinned repeatedly . Come to the table. Receive his forgiveness and start new right now.
If you are not part of the body of Christ and don’t take part in this feast. Consider how powerful this relationship is. You can be united with Christ in faith and baptism and be freed from your sin. This can be your celebration too!