Since this coming Sunday is Worldwide Communion, we dedicated this past Wednesday evening to discussing our experiences of communion as well as the role of table fellowship in our lives. After "checking in" by sharing some memorable meals from the past week, we took a look at the places in the Bible that discuss communion and offered our thoughts on these passages:
Luke 22:17-20 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
Mark 14:22-25 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
Matthew 26:26-28 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
1 Corinthians 11:23-25 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night 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, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Some of our reflections:
--Surprised at the absence of "bread of life/cup of blessing" language used in UCC communion.
--Surprised at so little variation, unlike many stories in the Gospels
--Interested in the wording of "covenant" versus "new covenant."
--"Do this in remembrance of me" is only present in some of the texts but is important to UCC theology of communion.
--Jesus is inviting everyone to eat at his table and everyone is encouraged to remember him when eating.
--The command to "do this" is non-specific. Especially in 1 Cor, it's not the drinking itself but something you do while drinking. Instead of just referring to communion, could be referring to sacrificing yourself for others like Jesus.
--Strange that this is a ritual in church since in the text it seems like it should be a practice at any meal.
Our conversation then shifted to reflections on what communion means to us personally. Some of our thoughts are noted below - please feel free to add your own in the comments!
--For one person, communion was very meaningful as a child - tasting something made the experience more intense. Now, not believing in the meaning behind the ritual, it is more confusing.
--We talked about the very particular tastes of communion and how they vary from church to church with the different breads and wines/juices that are used. It's the only time you experience that particular combination of flavors.
--Jesus is spiritual sustenance, and communion is symbolic of that sustenance so that we can go out and be sustained to be his servant in the world.
--For those of us who've had the opportunity to hand out communion at church, it's interesting to see the different reactions people have when receiving communion.
--Symbolism and ritual are important to the experience; tapping into a history of symbolism in Western culture of the goblet, chalice, etc.
--We compared the individual and communal aspects of communion as practiced today. Sometimes it can feel more personal, just you and the bread/wine. Or, it can be more communal sustenance.
--One person shared a particularly powerful communion experience at Civic Center BART on Sunday mornings.
--We're on a journey with Jesus and this is one way that our lives can intersect.
--In our culture, it's easy to just go off on your own and do your own thing. Communion is a reminder that Christ calls us to be in community with each other, even those we might not naturally be friends with. We're constantly called to remember Jesus's life and our discipleship to bring about the kingdom of God.
--With World Communion Sunday coming up, we thought about how we can all gather at the same table and be in fellowship with each other in a more global sense.