(Below is a Communion Meditation I shared at my local church. This was one way to remember and rejoice in Christ through Communion, not a detailed explanation of it.)
Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, can confuse and remain unclear. And not just the tricky theological questions, but the practical ones most people in their seats have going through their minds. What should I be doing while the bread and cup are passed? Should the tone be somber or celebratory? Should I confess sin, listen to the song, sing, give thanks, or think about the death of Christ?
Your practices during this time might largely depend on what the churches you’ve been in emphasized. I grew up in a church where communion emphasized examining yourself to find any sins to confess. Communion is a time to confess sin, but it’s easy to turn this into an over-analytical experience where we try to recall every sin, beat ourselves up, pile on guilt and shame, and then feel absolved through the ritual of eating the bread and drinking the cup.
Communion isn’t meant to be a dark cloud over the service. Yes, we should examine ourselves and if we know of sin, confess it to God and seek cleansing in Jesus. Confession involves sorrow, but it doesn’t end there. If we only think of communion as a time for personal introspection leading to sobriety, or even if we only dwell on the sacrifice of Jesus and never consider the benefits and joy he purchased for us, then we are stopping short of moving from sorrow to celebration.
Communion is a meal, a tiny one in our case with tiny crackers representing bread and sugary juice representing wine. Meals are celebrations. Meals are a time of joy. Meals are a time to fill up, having your desire and need for sustenance met. Meals are a time of fellowship and participation. We look around and look up. Gratitude and thanksgiving for God’s provision and goodness characterize meals. Meals are mini-feasts.
And yet we treat communion like it’s a time of fasting; a period of sorrow and inward reflection. We treat it like a time of abstaining, giving up pleasures, and a private experience. Fasting is good, but I don’t think that’s the tone of the Lord’s Supper.
There is sorrow because it focuses on the death of Jesus for our sin, but sorrow is eclipsed by the joy given in Christ’s death for our sin. If the focus of communion isn’t sin, but the savior who paid for it and removes it for us, then our sorrow leads to rejoicing. We exchange guilt for grace as confession leads to celebration.
The Christian posture of being “sorrowful and yet always rejoicing” helps us think through our posture at the Communion Table. The sacrificial death of Jesus and our sin that caused it stir up sorrow, and yet the redemption purchased and cleansing provided should flood us with thanksgiving and joy. Like with real wine, bitterness and sweetness swirl together.
Like we give thanks at our own dinner table, at the Lord’s table we have even more to give thanks about because our sin and shame is carried away, we have fellowship with one another and God, and we receive all God’s promises in Christ. This is a meal of God’s rich provision. It’s a reminder God doesn’t sparingly feed us but he lavishly and graciously feeds us, like a feast.
For us then it’s a meal of bringing our hungers, receiving all that God has for us, and responding with joy, celebration, and gratitude. Confess sin, bring your hungers and need to God, and then celebrate his provision. Give thanks for all the ways God has blessed us and fed us through Christ. The broken body and spilled blood of Jesus assures us we will not go hungry, our concerns will not go unheard, and our pain is not unnoticed. Nor will our sins will be counted against us or have the final word over us. In Christ, all sin is removed, a perfect righteousness is given, and we are welcomed by God to gather around the table for a celebratory feast.
(For a similar blog, see “What Does It Mean to Remember Jesus in the Lord’s Supper?”)