Communion and Holy Communion have been on my mind a lot lately, so I’m taking the time to share my thoughts on both – please send me your own!
Communion, community, communing, commune, common. These words all share the same root; they all have to do with a “sharing together,” a “unity of mind and spirit.” Then there is Holy Communion, something very much the same, but also “set apart” (which is the definition of the word “holy”). Holy Communion is a sharing in and with the Body of Christ, and a re-membering of Christ’s body; the body which we have dis-membered through sin, conflict, and our lack of forgiveness of one another…the very things for which Christ died.
Communing with someone – anyone – can be and most often is, a sacred thing. It happens when true sharing happens, both of our short-comings and our triumphs. That sharing is without jealousy, recrimination, or anger…it is a “coming together,” a re-membrance, and a remembering of something very special that occurs over time and circumstance. I do not believe in an “immediate communion,” even if the parties are very much in sync with each other from the beginning. Communion takes a lot of time, work, and participation in one another’s lives. And so it is with Holy Communion, which is the reason for the rites of Baptism (even infant Baptism requires the time and commitment of the parents and congregation to bring up the children in the way they should grow) and Confirmation – which are commitments made to God that take time to study and understand.
We are told by Jesus Christ to “take and eat, and to drink… all of us… in remembrance of me.” So many people see this only as a “recalling to mind” the things which Christ has done, and is doing for us. I see it as so much more, because as we partake in the elements that represent the broken body and shed blood of our Lord, we are, as Christ’s body, re-membering that Body, bringing it all together again as we gather around the table, and in so doing rededicating our lives to the “wholeness” of Christ’s Body and the fullness of Christ’s sacrifice and gift of eternal life through God’s gift of God’s only Son. This remembrance, and re-membrance cannot be done often enough. My husband and I have served several churches where “Communion Sunday” is the least attended service of the month. (It is traditional in the United Methodist Church [UMC] to celebrate Communion only once a month, or even only once a quarter, usually the first Sunday of each month, and occasionally on other special days of the Church year.) I grew up, not in Methodism, but in The Disciples of Christ, which offers Communion every Sunday. I miss that so much. My family’s membership in the UMC began when we moved from the South to the Northeast and there were no Disciples of Christ churches anywhere nearby, and as my father grew up attending Methodist churches, that is where we placed our membership and our participation. (My father’s brother is a now-retired UMC pastor.)
There are many things I indeed love about the UMC, not the least of which are its foundation in the Wesleyan movement and the original enthusiasm attendant with all those who were and are a part of it. There are not many things better than hearing a UMC congregation – large or small – join joyfully in singing the great hymns of the church – hymns both old and new! And so, I am happily a member of the UMC; but I still miss weekly Holy Communion – indeed the founders of Methodism, John and his brother Charles Wesley, celebrated this “rejoining” daily.
My husband, Ashley, and I simply could not (and still do not) understand the attitude that “if you partake in Communion too often, it loses its meaning!” Dear me – despite Ashley’s earnest teaching on the background, reasons, and yes, NEED OF ALL (as often as possible) for Communion, most who heard were not persuaded. We both remember a time in our lives when “Communion Sunday” was the most-attended service of the month! Times have indeed changed. There are, as well, church members who attend worship every Sunday but do not partake in Communion because they feel “they are not worthy.” The shortest answer to that is “of course you’re not…none of us are!” The gift of partaking in the Body of Christ is not dependent on our worthiness, but on our efforts to repent of our sin. In fact God gave us this gift of the Son in order to reconcile us to a more perfect union with God, and at our end on this earth, a perfect rejoining of and in that Holy Life, which was given – no strings attached – for our salvation from all those things which make ALL of us “unworthy” of that most precious Gift.
Take time to be holy – separate yourself from those things which separate you from a fuller relationship with God. Spend time in prayer both asking and listening for the voice and leading of God to be more evident in your life. Prayer, and God’s answers most often take time and patience. (Once I heard someone say, “Never pray for patience, because if you do, God will put you into situations that require you to exercise it!” – funny, but true!) Most of all, consider Holy Communion as a truly Holy Time, a gift undeserved, but freely given for all who would partake. It is, of all God’s gifts, the most precious. I hope to see and feel you there next time, partaking with me and all others who come, in this most joyful celebration of remembrance, re-membrance, and God’s great love.