Monday, April 04, 2011

Communion expresses community

I have this crazy pipe dream. I'd love to sell my home, buy some land, build a cabin and live like a pioneer. I even involve other people in my pipe dream, be it family or people from my church. In fact it would totally rock if my church decided to sell the building we meet in, and every one sold their homes and we all go Amish. Our pastor looks good in black, and I think he'd look very distinguished with a beard and one of those hats. But alas I can only dream about such things because they just wouldn't work in real life. Although we do have a lot of people in our church who could make it work; we have doctors, nurses, engineers, construction workers, teachers, farmers - all the ingredients needed to start your own colony!

The thing that appeals to me the most, aside from the romantic notion of living a simple life off the land, is the idea of living in community. During Lent our church has been doing a series on communion, and last Sunday I spoke on the idea of communion as being an expression of community. As I was thinking & praying about my sermon I realized that there were a lot of words in the English language that sound similar to communion, and they all loosely share in each other's meaning. When we do communion we communicate the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; as communication is ultimately about symbolism, the breaking of bread symbolizes Christ's body broken for humanity. The wine symbolizes His blood, shed for the forgiveness of sins. To have communion means not only the ritual performed in church but to also share in each other's thoughts & emotions. We commune with others through relationships, and those who live in a commune share their possessions. Those possessions aren't private property, but rather shared or common property. We live in the Christian or Common Era (CE), where (as John Calvin put it) there is common grace for all people. All these things are the ingredients for Christian community, where there is a shared fellowship of faith.

We read how in Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-35 that the early church lived as a community of faith; they communicated their faith, communed with God and each other, lived a communal life, and had communion (both symbolically and relationally) because of their common belief in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They were a diverse group of people from many different cultures, nationalities and languages. The Apostles themselves were an unlikely group made up of blue collar fishermen, a Roman collaborator and a resistance fighter to the Roman occupation. Talk about your different walks of life! And yet they were a peaceful community brought together by the Spirit of God. They were, as the Bible called them, one body and a common loaf that tasted the goodness of God for themselves. They put the practice of community to work by living out what have come to be called the "one another" passages. Among them are the commands to love one another, serve on another, submit to one another, share your possessions with one another, forgive one another, encourage and carry one another's burdens - the list goes on and on.

For me I've experienced this sense of being "one loaf" in many ways. Nowadays I find it in the small group my wife & I attend. For the past two years Angel & I have been meeting with folks from our church, where we have developed a level of relationship that serves to build the life of Jesus in each other. But one of the most profound experience I've had of connection to Jesus and His church was at a Lutheran renewal movement seminar. Having been raised a nominal Lutheran I was mistaken to think that they were all ritual and no relationship with God. But I couldn't have been more mistaken, as these Lutherans loved Jesus. I'll always remember when they ended the conference, those many years ago, with a time of blended worship. There was liturgy and contemporary songs that went on for 90 minutes, and as the worship band played everyone went up for prayer and communion. It was a beautiful, profound and moving experience that literally left me speechless. That night we were one body, one loaf, regardless of who we were or what church we attended. Sadly many Christians have yet to discover this sense of community in their own churches. We don't have to go Amish to find it though. But if we turn to the source of Christian community, which is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and apply that life by "one anothering", we can have that sense of belonging.

And that sense of belonging, both to God and each other, is why Christians take communion.

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