What is Communion?

Communion Service, World Conference, 2013*

Adapted from a talk I did for CommumityPlace, October 7th, 2015

Communion  (also known as the Lord’s Supper, and in other denominations as the Eucharist or the sacrament**), is one of those things that is multi-dimensional. We celebrate it for a lot of reasons.

When we think about Communion we often think of it only in the context of remembering that Christ died for the sins of the world. That’s part of it, and I like to acknowledge that part, but its only one dimension of the greater purpose of communion.

I prefer to think of communion as an opportunity. It’s a chance for me to renew my covenant with Jesus Christ. 

That is something I take very seriously, and I think it warrants being very deliberate with my own personal preparation to take communion. And its up to each of us to decide how we want to do that.

When we participate in communion, we renew our covenants with Jesus Christ. But, what does that mean?  Those are not just fancy words; they have a practical meaning in our spiritual lives.  When we renew our covenants with Jesus Christ, we are reaffirming our willingness to be disciples of Jesus Christ.

We are, in essence, re-committing to follow the teachings of Christ, and to make a promise to respond. This is what it means to be a disciple. Anyone can be a follower, but a disciple is someone who responds. 

A disciple is someone who wants to be invitational, who wants to nurture holistic, Christ-like relationships, and who wants to build Zionic, or sacred communities.

A disciple is someone who wants to help the church resonate with people, and to help it be relevant and redemptive.

A disciple is someone who helps other people recognize the blessings they have received, and who understand the blessings they themselves have received, and who expresses gratitude to God for those blessings.

So when we participate in communion, we renew our commitment to doing, or being all of those things.

I also look at communion as an additional form of baptism.  When we are baptized, we are forgiven for our sins.  I look at each communion meal that I participate in as an additional opportunity to be forgiven for my sins, to be spiritually cleansed.  It’s a reset.   I know that each time I participate in communion, God is making peace with me, even if I don’t make peace with God, or with myself.

Communions is therefore a redemptive experience, and I think that it’s important that we remember that. When we go through those periods where we experience personal guilt, when we’re disappointed in ourselves, when we feel unworthy, we can come to the communion table, and we can count on God forgiving us. We can count on being redeemed once more in the eyes of God.

And we know that this is true, because we know that God views all people as having immeasurable and equal worth.

And when we approach communion this way, we need to be willing to give up our burdens. We need to freely give up whatever it is that wears us down.  That is also part of the process of achieving some measure of personal redemption.

But communion is also a chance for us to make new covenants with God. When we renew our baptismal covenant, we can also make additional covenants, challenging ourselves to increase our response to God.  That is what I said to my congregation just this past Sunday, I asked them to make additional covenants with Jesus Christ, “to more fully respond to the ever increasing need to heal the world”

And we can increase our response to God in any number of ways. That might include living our lives in harmony with our church’s Nine Enduring Principles, especially Unity in Diversity, and the Worth of All Persons.

Or, we might increase our response by embracing our mission initiatives, such as abolish poverty & end suffering.

When all is said and done, communion is an opportunity for rejuvenation, personal redemption, spiritually cleansing, gratitude and reaffirming our covenants with Jesus Christ. Its about redemption, renewal, and response.

*Presided over by the general officers of the church. President Veazey and President Savage served communion to each other, and then they served the other leaders, who then served an army of volunteers (and the choir) who served everyone else. Its a very impressive thing to watch.

**In Community of Christ the term “sacrament” does not refer exclusively to the Lord’s Supper, but is used in reference to eight sacred rites (what some faiths call ordinances) that require priesthood authority.  The others are: Administration to the Sick, Baptism, Blessing of Children, Confirmation, Evangelist’s Blessing, Marriage, and Ordination.

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