It all started when our plans for a youth camp in 2015 came crashing down around us. We had everything planned and set... just no actual attendees of a particularly ‘youth’ful nature. We were going have young married couples there as well doing some sessions alongside the youth camp program anyway, so when no youth were committing to it, we decided to just all go in together and make it a more general ‘young adults’ camp. And with not long to go, a new theme needed, and seeing as we were going to throw in the single people with the married people, I hastily re-named the camp simply: Together.
And this is the camp God wanted us to have – clearly. It was a wonderful camp. It also gave me the chance to ponder deeply our togetherness, not only between married couples, and not only between all of God’s people, but our ‘togetherness’ with God. For our communion time on the Sunday of the camp, we all sat down at the long table, lunch laid out ready in front of us, but also with a plate of bread and cups filled with red juice. I spoke about the very thing we were about to do. Eat together.
Something that is very important and infinitely unique, special and beautiful – is our togetherness – or our union with God. In other words, our COMMUNION.
Communion is the thing we do at church every week and we all have our ideas and beliefs about what it is. It is remembrance. It is a spiritual exchange. It is a time to reflect and examine ourselves. A time to remember the devastating effect of our sins and Jesus’ death in order to pay for them. It is a ritualistic time. Ceremonial. We do it every week and we do it in a certain way.
My original desire for this communion time was not to be too weird and ritualistic about it because our attendees were going to be young girls who don’t go to church, have not yet committed to a Christian life and may not yet fully understand the reason or deep meaning of this thing we call communion. And so the focus was going to be less on the bread and wine, and more on simply the value of eating together and drinking together and how that forms a unique, special and intimate bond between ourselves and each other, and between ourselves and God.
When Jesus was here on Earth, He seemed to place a lot of value in the act of going round someone’s house, and eating with them. We even see it in His words in Revelation 3:20: Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with Me.
Jesus doesn’t just mean literally eating with the person. It’s an analogy for communion. As in togetherness, union, intimacy.
I looked up some meanings of the word communion and tried to find its origin and I found this definition. Communion is the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially on a mental or spiritual level. I also found some interesting words that I really liked. Words like participation, fellowship in the spirit, contributory help, sharing in... and one that particularly stood out to me, was contact.
Just think about that. Our contact with God. The whole theme of the Bible (among others) is God’s desire to be with us. Communion is our contact with Him. How can we even have contact with God? When you think about who God is, the power He has, His perfect holiness – and then think about who we are – these tiny fault-ridden, selfish ants crawling around on the tiny speck of a planet in the vast universe. We not only get to have contact with Him, but He WANTS contact with us. So desperately that he died to get it!
Communion, I found, is also ‘what is shared on common as the basis of fellowship’. We tend to connect with people (have communion with them) best when we have something in common with them. We might like the same TV shows, or play the same sport. We might both have the same outlook on life and just get each other. We have communion when we have things in common.
Then what do we have in common with God? Going by what I said a paragraph ago, you would think ‘not much!’ He’s big, we’re small. He’s perfect, we’re damaged. He’s Creator, we’re the creation, He knows all, we know pittance. He’s wise, we’re inherently foolish. He’s eternal, we’re in a temporary existence. How can we possibly connect? What can we possibly have in common with God?
Well, ultimately, we have Jesus in common. Jesus is how God relates to us. Jesus mediates between us and God. He’s the bridge between sin and holiness! This is something to be extravagantly celebrated! We can have DIRECT CONTACT with the Almighty God! It is truly a treasured, amazing privilege of an exchange!
The ceremony, or sacrament of Communion is called the Eucharist. Eucharist means ‘thanksgiving’ and for reasons I’ve mentioned, it is the most sacred aspect of our Christian faith, the greatest mystery, the greatest sorrow, the greatest blessing, the very heart of our Lord’s teaching. Why? Because it points to the whole point of everything! Our perfect union – our contact with God, which is made possible through Jesus. We must approach it with humility and prayer, but also with confidence! It’s what we were born for! To be in perfect union with God.
There’s something that Jesus said during the Passover meal with His friends right before He was arrested. Referring to taking the cup and the bread, He said: Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.
Does that mean we do communion every time we eat and drink – every meal? Bread and wine were common food back in Jesus’ day, maybe when we eat all our common foods, we ought to have communion...?
I have two thoughts about this. My first thought is YES! We surely have communion! We usually eat with other people, and looking at the definition of communion I pointed out before, this is what we do, we share thoughts and feelings as we eat, we share what we have in common. And this is why it’s so special and important to eat together with our families and friends instead of eating by ourselves and at different times. Whenever we eat, we have communion with each other. Here I’m not necessarily talking about the ceremony of the bread and the wine, I’m talking about the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially on a mental or spiritual level.
My second thought about what Jesus said to His friends at Passover, is that maybe Jesus meant simply, whenever you eat, remember me. A simple remembrance can be a prayer – grace – before we eat. I sometimes forget to say grace. But I think that might be what Jesus was talking about.
So every time we eat, we should remember the Lord. We should remember Him all the time, of course, but us humans seem not to be able to remember everything very well at all times, so maybe Jesus was helping us to remember Him by saying when you eat and drink, remember me. He knows we need help. Something visual, something concrete. Some aid for our remembrance.
And so maybe this is also why eating and drinking together is so important to Jesus. It’s a sacred time of bonding, connecting and relating with not only each other, but also with God.
Now on a slightly different thought... the unleavened bread that was used by Jesus at Passover was called ‘the bread of affliction’ because it relates back to the Exodus out of Egypt. The bread was made in haste before their escape. There was no time to let it rise. And after that event, it was called the bread of affliction “that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt”.
And it is this very bread that Jesus broke at the Passover table with His friends that night. Jesus broke the bread. The bread of affliction... which was broken by Jesus! This is why the early believers saw communion as a celebration!
Yes, communion is most definitely a time to examine ourselves. It can be a sombre time where we remember Jesus’ body being broken, Him suffering much for our wrongdoings. But it is also a celebration because not only did Jesus’ body ‘break’, but what also ‘broke’ along with it, were chains, affliction, oppression, sin, judgement, guilt – BROKEN! Hallelujah!
Around the dining table at camp, we broke up this bread of affliction with our hands with joy and celebration. We saw the crumbs fall and thought about our sins falling away, our guilt and shame being torn up and destroyed. This is why I believe we should break bread at communion time. Not only is the significance in the bread – eating it being the symbol of us taking part in Jesus death and resurrection and the Body of Christ – but there is significance in the action of breaking it. The length God went to... to be with us again. To connect with us, to bond with us. To share with us on a mental and spiritual intimate level. Breaking down all that hinders.
May we be the kind of people to open the door to Him, allow Him in to eat with us. To have communion with us.
Our communion time didn’t stop there. We ate our lunch, shared our hearts with each other, jokes, stories, ideas, our intimate thoughts and feelings. Jesus sat among us, and we had communion.