I wrote previously how we understand the practice or implementation of communion. Now I speak about one aspect of what is conveyed to us in communion. (Please recognize the limitations of this blog and attention spans. Great theologians have written many many volumes about the Lord’s Supper. This is not a full theological treatise.)
When we take communion we are being connected to Christ. We are not just recalling an event that happened in the past. We are being connected to Christ and His work.
These words we receive from Christ himself: “Take; this is my body.” “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” (Mark 14:22, 24)
His words are clear. This is my body. This is my blood. Jesus does not speak of a symbol. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is even more offensively blunt, “This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (Jn 6:51). And again, Jesus embarrasses us when he says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. (Jn 6:54).
When Paul speaks of communion in 1 Corinthians 10:16, he describes it as participating in the body of Christ, in the blood of Christ. For Paul the Lord’s Supper is not just some cognitive remembrance. In the bread and wine we enter into the salvation event of the cross and in Christ (Mk 10:38-39). He goes onto to say that as we share the one loaf we participate and are joined to the body of Christ.
Paul speaks similarly of baptism when he says that we are joined to Christ in both his death and resurrection (Rom 6:4-5). Paul tells us that in baptism as we are baptized into Christ, we are made part of the one body (Eph 4:4, Gal 3:27-28).
When we gather as the body of Christ to receive communion, we are truly rejoined to Christ. We are re-membered to the body which is Christ. Our bond with Christ and his church is reinforced, rejoined.
In the sacraments, The Church is joined to Christ. As members of the Church we are joined to Christ in the sacraments as events of the Church. In the sacraments the Church is mystically entering into the Salvation work of Christ. These sacraments, these gospel moments of God, occur in specific physical settings of people and place.
We are physical. We cannot be who we are as individuals outside of our physical incarnation. Your body shapes who you are. This is why Christ came in the incarnation to die a physical death on the cross.
Our physicality matters. Otherwise, why would we be wearing all this protective gear and sheltering in place during this pandemic?
This physical separation we are experiencing from one another is teaching us to appreciate even more greatly our bond with others. While we attempt to stay connected through various communications format, we all know the physical presence and touch is missed.
As we are currently separated and unable to take communion we are not severed from Christ anymore than we are severed from our family and friendships. This pandemic imposed fast is an opportunity for us to grow in recognizing what we have taken for granted.
While this disease is the result of nature (and certainly the debate goes on about other contributors), the LORD did not unleash this disease upon humanity. The LORD, however, is using this time to get our attention.
As we shelter in place we have experienced a Lent like no other. Lent is a time of repentance and prayer. The Lenten discipline of Fasting is a practice of depriving ourselves to be more focused. While many fast from vices which we should forego anyway, fasting is meant to forego good blessings so we can focus more intently on the ultimate good of God.
This Easter, our Lenten fast continues as we fast from the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Fasting from Communion is not a punishment, but is a pray-filled awakening to God’s gift of the sacrament.
Missing the sacrament causes us to repent of our carelessness and sinful arrogance about the sacrament and pray for a deeper appreciation of it. Missing the sacrament causes us to grow in our desire for the fellowship of other believers and the bonding of the sacrament. Missing the sacrament causes us to reflect more deeply that Holy Communion is not some human remembrance, but an unmitigated gospel act of God in our lives. Missing the sacrament causes us to reflect on how the bread and the wine are the Cross made real to us. Missing the sacrament causes us to recognize the gift of Christ to us sinners who put out hands to receive his body and blood so we may have a new, sin-forgiven, Spirit-infused life.
Our faith will not suffer because of this fast from Holy Communion. Rather this fast will grow us deeper in faith. This fast will not infest disciples with anxiety, but rather grow us to trust God in the places where we have no control. (Phil 4:6, Lk 12:22-32)
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (Jn 6:35)
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7