Being His People...In Communion
Chris Weisheim | 11.12.20
As we explore the letter of James together as a church family, we want to continue learning how to be God’s people in our daily lives. This blog series brings together biblical truth and personal experiences on practical topics encouraging us to be like Christ.
Each year at Thanksgiving, Jen, our daughters and I are blessed to gather with both sides of our families to celebrate the holiday with a meal and fellowship. Jen’s family is large, which usually means there are about 30–40 adults and kids eating together. It’s a great time of chaotic fun! However, this year will be different. Because of the pandemic and some ongoing health concerns with a few of our family members, the Thanksgiving meal with Jen’s family will look different in 2020. And that’s okay because changing times and seasons require us to bend our plans, schedules and traditions.
This reminds me of another meal that has been disrupted this year, one that we share together as a faith family: communion. Because of the pandemic, we have not been able to partake in the Lord’s supper together in many months. God willing, we’re going to start sharing communion together again soon. However, like my family’s upcoming Thanksgiving, it will look different than how we’ve partaken of it before the pandemic. And that’s alright because God gives us some flexibility regarding how we experience communion together.
The Bible teaches several important aspects about communion. First, during His last meal with the disciples before His death, Jesus permanently instituted communion as an ongoing renewal of the new covenant relationship He has with the church (Luke 22:14–23). The bread and cup represent Jesus’ body that was broken and blood that was shed on the cross for our sins (Matthew 26:26–29). This means that each time we partake in communion, we remember the salvation Jesus bought for us on the cross, celebrate His victory over sin and anticipate His second coming. Our close relationship with Jesus also means that in communion we are fellowshipping with Jesus in His death, because through it, He sustains and nourishes the church (1 Corinthians 10:16).
Second, communion is only for followers of Jesus. You see, Jesus intended it to be shared by the church. The church is the assembly of His people who He redeemed and united together for glorious worship of Him in all things (Ephesians 1:3–10; Colossians 1:17–18). So, the Lord’s supper is only shared by people who have committed their lives to the Lord and His church.
Third, before we partake, Paul tells us to examine ourselves so that we may not partake in an unworthy manner (1 Corinthians 11:27–31). Based upon the immediate context, what Paul means is that if there are divisions between believers in the same local church, they should first reconcile with one another and then partake. Otherwise, we risk bringing judgment on ourselves.
Fourth, the church family should participate in the Lord’s supper together. Paul says that believers are one body, for they all partake of one bread (1 Corinthians 10:17). This means there is a God-unifying reality for the body of Christ each time we share communion together as a faith family.
Graciously, God does not prescribe the exact frequency or location of communion, or how we partake of it; nor does He dictate the kind of bread and juice we use, or whether we ought to pray or sing while we participate. God leaves these decisions up to each church’s tradition, preference or persuasion. There is a great amount of variation among local churches regarding how communion is shared.
So, what will sharing communion together as a faith family look like during this pandemic season? Well, it means that on Sundays when we have communion, some of us will partake in our homes and others will partake in person at Radiant. Some of us may use a cracker and juice while others may use the self-contained bread/juice packets. But whether we are together in person or in spirit; whether we use crackers from the pantry or unleavened wafers from a box, we can still faithfully and joyfully participate in the meal together. God will still be glorified. His church will still be unified.