Communion: Thanksgiving Practice All People

Every week at Christ Church: Portland we celebrate communion. Some call it the Lord’s Supper, others call it the Eucharist (a powerful Greek word that means something like “Thanksgiving feast”). For us, it’s all the same - something powerful happens when we receive ordinary elements of bread and wine freely given, welcoming to all.

 

We’re in Portland, so our bread is gluten free and our wine is non-alcoholic, but otherwise it is the same type of practice that Christians participate in around the world.

 

Except for us, it is a little different - we welcome all people every week. In fact, we sort of revel in it, saying “All People!” before we join in.

 

That’s because we think that like God’s love and grace, God’s table is something given to us as utter gift, no matter what.

 

Since the earliest days of the Jesus movement, Christians have been remembering “the night in which Jesus was betrayed” where he broke bread in an upper room in Palestine before he was turned over, wrongfully tried and executed on a Roman Imperial cross.

 

These are the words you often hear, handed on to us by one of the first leaders in the Christian church, Paul (St. Paul, the Apostle Paul, the guy that used to go by Saul when he persecuted Christians before he had his Damascus Road experience - all the same guy)

 

“Something about communion triggers our memory and helps us see things as they really are. Something about communion opens our eyes to Jesus at the table.”
— Rachel Held Evans

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, 'This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’

 

In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.'

 

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.” - 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (ESV)

 

So in sharing communion, we certainly remember these words and this last supper.

 

“With all the conceptual truths in the universe at his disposal, [Jesus] did not give them something to think about together when he was gone. Instead, he gave them concrete things to do—specific ways of being together in their bodies—that would go on teaching them what they needed to know when he was no longer around to teach them himself.
— Barbara Brown Taylor

But we actually try to recall four kinds of meals that Jesus celebrated in his life and work amongst the people:

 

  1. The Last Supper (Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, Luke 22:7-39 and John 13:1-17:26)
  2. Jesus eating with “sinners”  (check out Mark 2:13 and Matthew 9:10)
  3. The Feeding of the Multitudes (a couple of the passages include Matthew 14:13-21 and Matthew 15:32-39)
  4. The Great Banquet (see Luke 13:29 and then read Revelation 19-22)

 

We remember these four types of meals when we celebrate communion to not only remember something that happened once in the past - that’s empty religion. We remember to literally “put back together again” the whole story of God and seek that kind of repair and restoration in our own daily living. So in some sense, practicing weekly communion is a way for us to rehearse what is to come by living it out in the present.

 

The first Christians didn’t necessarily praticve communion - they shared in agape meals, or “love feasts” where they celebrated richly with God’s good things of food and fruit of the vine. It was also a time for people to check in with one another and make sure people had enough food in their cabinets at home. You get the idea - it was like a communal feast.

 

Over time churches ritualized communion into a religious observance. 

 

But what if we allowed this practice to shape us into how we might feast and feed in our ordinary lives? Not just as a ceremony but as a way to see the world around us?

 

 

Here are a few ways to think more deeply about communion:

 

  1. Communion (the Eucharist) is a practice Jesus gave us to remember well
  2. Communion (the Eucharist) is a practice Jesus gave us be able to see well
  3. Communion (the Eucharist) is a practice Jesus gave us ensure we neighbor well

 

“795 million people experience hunger every day.
One in five kids in America go hungry every day.”
— Bread for the World

Communion is about abundance and gift. So, how might our table practice at church inform our table practices throughout the week?

 

Communion (or The Eucharist or Lord’s Supper) is food for the journey - a rememberance of Jesus last supper and the way we’ll all eat together at the End of the Story. It’s about shalom and sharing. It’s aboutinclusion. Can you drink the cup? Absolutely yes.