What is Holy Communion?
By Pastor Tom Anderson
The Jewish feast of Passover (Exodus 12:1-28) was modified by Jesus (Mark 14:12-25) as an act of worship to be used by his followers. Holy Communion along with Baptism are considered to be the two sacraments of the church. Holy Communion goes by several names: “Eucharist”, “Mass”, the “Lord’s Supper” or simply “the Breaking of Bread.” We know from Acts 20:1 that the early church immediately began to celebrate Holy Communion. On “Holy Thursday” just before Easter we hold an evening worship service to commemorate Jesus’ gift of Holy Communion to his church.
Holy Communion is first about memory. “Do this in remembrance of me” said Jesus. Memory is what makes us who we are. One of the tragedies of dementia is that our loved ones forget. This underscores how important memory is to our personal identity. And when our loved ones forget who they are–it falls to us to be their memory. Jesus knows we are a forgetful people. We not only forget our manners, we forget who we are. A friend of mine always said to her kids as they went out the door to Friday night activities, “Remember who you are.” We need to remember what Jesus did for us in his sacrifice on the cross. We need to remember that we belong to him. We need to remember the life and hope he has for us.
Holy Communion is about experience. When the disciples recognized the Risen Christ on the road to Emmaus they ran back to Jerusalem. “Then they told what had happened on the road and how Jesus was known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (Luke 24:35) Christians don’t believe Communion is just an empty ritual. We believe and experience the presence of Jesus. Sometimes it is a warm feeling of assurance. Sometimes it’s the relief of forgiveness or the healing of some broken thing inside of us. Sometimes it is as a word of wisdom or a moment of clarity about how we should live. There are many ways in which we experience Jesus in this sacrament.
Holy Communion is about anticipation. With faith we anticipate the last day in Holy Communion. When Christ returns. Sin and sorrow flee away. Justice and peace are established. Then we feast at the heavenly banquet table. The angel said to John, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Rev 19:9) The future belongs to the followers of Jesus. Beholding this future fires up the practice of hope in these present days. No matter how discouraging the news is, the followers of Jesus know that the best is yet to come!
Holy Communion is about the bonds of love in the church fellowship. Indeed at the first Lord’s Supper, Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34) At the table of the Lord we gather as diverse people. We all eat the same bread. It’s a universal aspect of human nature to celebrate our relationships by eating together in homes, restaurants or parks. So Jesus planned for his people to be bonded together by this meal.
Join us on Holy Thursday, April 14 at 7 PM!