As a child I was fascinated with communion. All the adults would pass trays of what seemed to me to be just kids’ food - crackers and juice. They would take the tiniest bite and sip of each and kids were not allowed to participate at all. My first memories of communion all seem to revolve around how silly I felt the adults were. Their faces were always so tight and downcast. I didn’t understand what made crackers and grape juice so serious, sad, and not-for-kids. So since we were not old enough yet to participate in the worship service, we took turns at lunch, thirty minutes later, passing the tortilla chips around the kids table. Then we would pass around a cup of water for each of us to take a small sip. It was a game to us, trying to figure out what was so special about crackers and juice.
All of the make-believe communions that we shared got me to really start thinking about this strange act that my parents did every Sunday. Eventually, I asked my parents about why they participated in communion, to which they responded, “We do this in remembrance of Jesus and his sacrifice.“ These words rang a bell as most Sundays during church we would read a version of the Last Supper that used the same language.
“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, 'Take and eat; this is my body.' Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'” (Matthew 26:26-28)
With age comes understanding and eventually I began to realize how wrong it was that Jesus, who was so good, chose to die for me. I now need communion to remind me that I am not worthy. I now need communion to place me at Jesus’ feet, eager to learn more. I now need communion to give me a sense of community and belonging, as I participate in something that millions of other people around the world are also doing.
Recently, though, communion has turned into a time of worship for me. There aren’t too many rituals that Jesus models for us in the gospel that we continue to repeat today. The main ones are eating of the bread, drinking of the fruit of vine, and immersing yourself in water as a representation of death, burial and resurrection in Jesus, baptism. What these things seem to have in common to me is exactly how COMMON they actually are.
What Jesus asks his disciples to do at that Last Supper isn’t hard. We all eat. We all drink. When he tells us about baptism, we all understand the concept of being dirty, being immersed in water, and then being clean again. It’s in this moment of realization that I recognize that we aren’t dealing with just a powerful deity or an absentee father. We are dealing with the creator of the universe, who knows his creation intimately and desires a relationship with each of them. What other religion or belief system has something as simple and beautiful as basic human needs being transformed into worship?
What a beautiful final reminder Jesus gave us at the last supper. This boils down the good news Jesus came to share, that we are all God’s chosen. The gospel was made for everybody. Before Jesus dies as a final act of love, he shows us one more way to worship, know, and remember God. None of these things, Jesus shows us how to do, requires a doctorate in Bible to understand. He didn’t give us something only one gender could participate in. He could have chosen a ritual that would exclude the poor or the people full of sin, but he did not. His last bit of instruction involved reminding us that just as each person can eat bread and drink wine. Each person was created to live in fellowship with Yahweh, the great I Am.
So when the plate gets passed to me on Sunday mornings, I look around at all the sinners and reflect on my own brokenness, all the people who are not worthy to enter into the presence of God, and I am thankful that Jesus didn’t complicate it. I am transported back to the first time he explained it, and I almost imagine rolled eyes at the simplicity of it. But what isn’t simple is the greatness of God’s love. He is forever beckoning us, all of us, to his table, where we are all welcome. He beckons all of us to come and know him.
Southern Hills Church of Christ