Easter is just behind us. Right before Easter we have Jesus celebrating Passover, the Last Supper, with his disciples. Even then Jesus was foreshadowing his death and taking an old celebration and putting new meaning into it. It would be a remembrance of his death. Or is it just a remembrance?
Paul sheds new light on this celebration that we call the Lord’s Supper or Communion. He makes a remarkable statement in his letter to the Corinthians: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26)
I don’t know what Communion means to you. If you grew up in my tradition, you would have had Communion only four times a year. It was quite an affair for a church of 2000 people. The bread was served in trays, but when the Communion cups went around, everyone drank from a common cup. Yes, hygiene considerations were different in those days. The cups were filled at the front of the church and then when it came to the adults, they would turn the silver cup a quarter turn so as not to put their mouth where the previous person drank from it. Of course, that only lasted so long before that effectiveness was gone. When the cup was empty, it went back to the front of the church where two ladies with white cloths wiped the cup clean. It was filled again to be reused.
It was only later that Communion started to have significance for me, not only because I started to take it, and later officiate it, but because I started to grasp the meaning of it.
It was always more than mere remembrance for me. It was a significant spiritual experience. I remember the time as a 22-year old in an old inner city church focusing on the thorny crown that was projected on the wall at the front of the church that Jesus died for me, not just for the sins of the whole world, but for me personally.
Officiating Communion and leading people in the sacrament gives additional opportunity to reflect on what actually happens during Communion. Even though we can never fully comprehend a spiritual sacrament, it is helpful to reflect on the meaning so as to be fully prepared as to what is available to us. As we posture our hearts to receive what God has for us, we are blessed with a greater awareness and experience of His goodness for us.
One of the meanings of Communion is that we are making a prophetic declaration. Every time we take Communion we declare the Lord’s death until He comes again. We are making a declaration to the world. Those who watch us can receive the message that is in Communion.
By Ralph Veenstra