Communion: Not just a ritual

I was 12 when my parents pulled a packet of bright yellow papers out of a drawer and placed them in front of me. My young eyes fell onto the pages filled with verses, and fill in the blanks as Mom and Dad slowly and lovingly led me through a study about what communion is all about.

For years, I had watched adults and children around me take communion and had begged my parents to let me participate in it—to this day, I still love being involved in everything around me!

But in that special moment, even though I was so young, I learned that waiting has tremendous value. As we pored over Luke 22, Matthew 26, and 1 Corinthians 11, my eyes were opened to the importance of what I had been itching to do. In taking time to understand the significance of communion, I was able to approach communion honorably and obediently.

Communion is not simply a ritual—something that adults just “do”. It is not a cracker, a glass of juice, or a sip of wine. It is tremendously significant. Any believer who takes it should understand why they do so, for we are told by Christ that when we eat and drink from the cup, we proclaim Jesus’ death on the cross (1 Corinthians 11:26). These are weighty words.

Communion is not a snack for toddlers either—it is a time set aside for believers to come before Christ in unity, together remembering and proclaiming His death, His sacrifice, and each examining their own hearts.

 

To proclaim Christ’s death. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul says that when we take communion, we proclaim Christ’s death (1 Corinthians 11:26)—His horribly cruel death, which saves us from an eternity separated from God. We are told that the bread symbolizes His body, which “broke” for us so that we may have eternal life and the juice represents His blood, spilled out.

When we participate in this sobering and glorious moment of worship, we declare that Jesus did indeed die as depicted in Scripture. We proclaim that we have surrendered ourselves to Him and are prepared to participate in His death as we live the Christian life. When we take communion, we declare this to ourselves, to our brothers and sisters around us, and to unbelievers. In other words, we proclaim the Gospel.

 

To remember His sacrifice. Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” When we take communion, we must pause to remember what our Savior did for us on Calvary—the brutal death He died to make amends for our sins.  Every time I take communion, I reflect on the sins in my life that brought Christ to the cross and I seek God’s forgiveness for them and I repent. As I reflect upon His death, I often remember scenes from the movie The Passion of the Christ. Even though these scenes cannot capture the brutality of what Jesus actually went through, they help my human mind comprehend a small fraction of the meaning of the bread and the cup, His broken body, and His spilt blood. This leads me to thankfulness and awe at the price of my relationship with God.

 

To examine ourselves. There is one other very important thing about communion that must be mentioned. Believers are called in Scripture to not drink the cup of communion in an unworthy manner, so as not to drink judgment upon ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:29). This may sound harsh, but what this goes to show is that we, as Christians, are to approach communion with proper repentance and humility. Personally, I often pray David’s prayer in Psalm 19:12, “But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.”

If we are unable to confess sins we know we need to, if we know others in church take issue with us and we haven’t sought to reconcile, or if we are harboring bitterness against a brother or sister—Scripture says we should let communion pass (1 Corinthians 11:28, Matthew 5:23-24). Communion represents Christ’s death for us. If we are unable to repent of our own sin, then how are we to honorably proclaim His death? It is better to wait, reconcile with our fellow Christians and with the Lord, then participate in communion another time.

 

There have been a few times when I’ve struggled with letting go of a sin, or I know that I have yet to forgive someone, and so I do not take communion. Of course, I find it somewhat embarrassing since other people might wonder about my actions. But this embarrassment is small compared to the severity of sinning against “the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27).

My encouragement to all of us is to approach the communion table soberly, yet joyfully, reflecting upon the tragedy of Calvary as well as the promise of Christ’s return. Where else do we experience such sorrow and joy at the same time?

Ultimately, may we celebrate, worldwide, as we take communion, that we all serve a Savior who laid Himself down for us, so that there may be eternal life. Praise be to His glorious name.

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