Two Sundays ago I was on vacation with my family and had the chance to worship at another church. It is always good to be able to step away and see how other churches do things and be reminded that the Church of God is much bigger than what I experience.
It happened to be a Sunday that the church was celebrating communion and one of the pastors was describing the sacrament and what we were about to do. What he said next was not wrong, but it gave me pause. As I said, it wasn’t wrong, but it was problematic because he didn’t follow it up with more. He said that what we were going to do was an intensely personal act between us and God. But he spoke nothing about how communion involves community.
When we take of the Lord’s Supper it is not merely a individualized, personal encounter with God. It is an act of the body and it is an act that emphasizes the body and how we are made one. God has taken away all that divided by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. What divided us from God is taken away, but also what divided people.
When we take communion, as it says in 1 Corinthians 11, “we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” By our actions we proclaim what that death did and what it represented. That’s why Paul criticizes the church in Corinth because their practice was not uniting the community, it was dividing it. If communion should proclaim the truth of the gospel, it can’t privilege the rich over the poor as they were doing. Nor should it focus entirely on the individual. There is that component, and we all should examine ourselves before taking of the sacrament, but there is more. Christ died to make us–collectively–his church. He is our head and we are his body. If we are not remembering that good news in communion, how then can our actions proclaim it?
The next time you celebrate the Lord’s Supper, be intentional to look around you at the other sisters and brothers to whom Jesus Christ has united us. You can certainly bow your head in private reflection, but know that this meal is thankfully more than about you and God, but it is a celebration that in Jesus the church is brought together and united. As we focus on the “foolish” act of our Lord on the cross, giving his body and blood for us, we proclaim his death–a death that brings us into fellowship with God and other believers.