Saturday, October 02, 2010

Why Take Communion?

Tomorrow is World Communion Sunday, and Christians from across the globe will be coming to the table in celebration.    In response to this day of observance, the Patheos Website has asked a number of its contributors to share why they take communion.  One of the contributors is Bruce Epperly, who is a regular contributor to this blog as well as to Patheos.  I thought I'd include his response and then offer some comments of my own.

Communion is about connection and embodiment. I take communion to join with my brothers and sisters in Christ across the globe, and then to embrace strangers and persons of other faiths. Communion reminds me that God is present in the ordinary media of bread and wine, but communion also inspires me to experience God in sharing meals with friends and family. Communion is, as the Celts say, a "thin place," which helps us discover what is: God's everlasting life in our ever-changing world. So, when I share communion, I affirm "the bread of life" and "the cup of healing."
Like me, Bruce is Disciple, but he and his pastor-spouse Kate, are also UCC, and they pastor a joint UCC-Disciples congregation, so I don't know what their pattern is. 

For me, and most Disciples, the Lord's Supper is a weekly observance (at the very minimum).  It defines who were are as a community of faith.  Our denominational symbol, after all, is a chalice.  And we come to the table because Jesus called us to remember him at the table -- As Paul puts it in recounting the Last Supper: 
"For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (1 Cor. 11:26). 
We come to the Lord's Table because that's what the early Christians did:
"They devoted themselves to the apostle's teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42)
So, there is a sense here that I take communion because it is a central, even essential practice of my tradition.  But, I also come to the table because it is, as Bruce puts it, a "thin place," a place to encounter the living Christ.  It's a place to remember that God has come into our midst and revealed God's self to humanity, and in doing so has participated in human life experience, even experiencing rejection leading to death.  It is a place to remember that Jesus sat with people at table, and in doing so offered a welcome presence.  It is a place to remember that however we define the future, there is a table waiting for us, where we will sit down as children of God to share in the messianic banquet.  And yes, it is a place to come and be fed with the living bread of God.   And yes, I come because by participating in the meal, I become part of the greater community that makes up the body of Christ -- for as Paul writes:  "Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we partake of the one bread" (1 Cor. 10:17).   

If I may be so bold, let me ask:  why do you take communion?

2 comments:

David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul Thiessen said...

I find easy agreement with Charles Schultz’s observation “I love humanity, it’s people I can’t stand.” and correspondingly I find commitment to a specific local body of the church in general and weekly participation in the Eucharist in particular a wonderful antidote to this condition. People, with all their warts and wrong theology (all of us have wrong theology to one degree or another) and bad practices (all of us are hypocrites to one degree or another), all stand together to receive the same basic elements of our faith. This is the one place where our practice actually can live up to the best of our shared theology. We frequently argue and fight and denigrate each other all week long, but then all are invited to come together and recognize that all truly are equal before God - The Eucharist, as simple and as fragile as it is, is the one place where our theology and our praxis meet, the one place where we act as if we truly believe that we really are equal before God – the old line up with the young, the rich with the poor, the educated with the illiterate, male with female, gay and straight, those who believe in transubstantiation, those who believe in the Eucharist as a memorial of Jesus’ sacrifice and those who see it an instantiation of the open table of Jesus’ life long ministry, with no preference being given to any. The one question I ask myself every week as I prepare to receive communion is: who am I excluding from the table? Who am I not willing to receive as a fellow traveler, both here at the communion table and out there in the multitude of interactions I have throughout my daily life and then I commit myself to looking for ways to build bridges of reconciliation and restoration.