Can we talk about Communion for a second? Now I’m sure that nothing quite excites you like talking about that X’s and O’s of the Lord’s Supper, but bear with me, because I think some of us have lost sight of the why, and it’s impacting the how. Why you do something matters; it drives the how, and if the why is lost, then Communion becomes an empty Sunday ritual; and nobody wants that.
Growing up in church we took Communion the old fashioned way, the elements were passed by the uhers and corporately we partook of the elements as the Pastor read 1 Corinthians 11; nothing wrong with that. Then in high school I moved churches, and this new church did Communion differently. Instead of corporate it was individual, standing together and jointly partaking of the elements was replaced by sitting in private meditation, with lowered lights, whispering prayers of thanks and petition to God as the band played; again, nothing wrong,per se.
Last year I attended a church and saw something I had never seen. When it was time for Communion, dozens of people – probably 40 or so – popped up from all over the auditorium in flashmob-style and served the cup and bread to near 800 people in just minutes – it took less than the length of one song. It was perfectly orchestrated; the planner in me loved it, but the Christian in me felt cheated. It went off without a flaw, but where was the worship? Where was the gospel remembrance? Where was the beauty of the Bride corporately remembering and reminding one another of the gospel?
When we lose sight of the why, the how gets filled with whatever manmade philosophies we put into it. But the gospel centers us; it’s our ballast, our plumb line, our defense against us – our sinful thoughts and our wrong ideas. With that said, let me give two considerations to help keep the gospel front, center, in, and through your Communion.
Kevin DeYoung recently wrote, “As important as it is to understand the significance of the Lord’s Supper, it’s just as important that we understand it is a supper we are celebrating. The sacramental feast is a meal, not a sacrifice.” I don’t know how supper is served in your home, but in my home and every home I’ve ever been to, it’s not done privately with people separated quietly enjoying their meat and potatoes.
Supper by nature is communal, and seeing how on the Cross Jesus was creating a people for himself, it shouldn’t be surprising then that Communion is communal. Having everyone partake of the elements separately, in the privacy of their own chair, is akin to having a party and asking everyone to eat alone, and turns the feast into a sacrifice.
In his book True Worshipers, pastor and worship leader Bob Kauflin writes, “We meet together as redeemed saints to remind each other whose we are, how we got here, and why it matters.” Faith has made us into a family, and families eat together. Communion is a time where the church scattered becomes the church gathered to corporately remember the gospel. Come Sunday, people have endured all sorts of schemes and attacks from the enemy. They’ve endured blows, failures, and successes, and Communion is a time to stand up and look around the room at the faces of your brothers and sisters, moms and dads and say, “We’re in this together. He hasn’t left us. His love remains. He will return.”
The second gospel ballast of communion is the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Life under the Sun is spotted with sin—fractures in families, deaths of loved ones, the struggle for holiness, the betrayal of a friend—but there’s a flickering flame of hope in the distance, an echo of celebration rolling over the hills of the land. Communion points the church forward, upward, beyond the Sun and into eternity, where our hope is – where Christ is seated.
Jesus says, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God… For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Lk. 22:15,17). As the weakest of strokes lays the foundation for the greatest works of art, everyday elements of bread and cup point the church toward the grandest dinner party of eternity, where freed from the entanglement of sin and cured from the sickness of our souls, Saints – more numerous than the stars in the sky – will come, sit, and share a meal, worshipping Jesus.
In giving us communion Jesus was doing something bigger than merely giving us a moment of personal reflection or a religious rite. He was giving us both a reminder of and a pointer to the gospel. Corporately taking the elements under the direction of the pastor, and giving time for everyone to look around the room at the other faces of family, helps everyone remember that we’re in this together—first as a family, then as a bride—and keeps Communion centered on the gospel.