Not Another Communion Sunday
We Should Celebrate the Lord’s Supper to Remember What Jesus Did for Us
Holy Communion (also known as the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist) is a time of celebration. In this we remember what Jesus did for us when he died in our place for the things we did wrong. In doing so, he reconciled us with the Father. His act of ultimate love for us is the foundation of our Christian faith.
Given this, you’d think I’d look forward to another Communion Sunday. I don’t.
Though I try to anticipate the Lord’s Supper, enjoy its rich symbolism, and connect with God, I struggle. I most always fall short. When I take communion, God seems distant—at the very time we should be the closest
The problem for me is the ritual. I know that some of you relish the ritual of the Eucharist. You find deep, profound meaning in its practice. I’m so happy for you. Unfortunately, the repetition of the ritual pushes me away. It serves as a wedge between God and me.
Not Another Communion Sunday
A few weeks ago, I walked into church and saw it configured for communion. I groaned inwardly. “Not another Communion Sunday.” At least I hope it was inwardly.
This church seems to practice communion about once a month. Sometimes the message connects with it, albeit in a tangential form, and other times it doesn’t—or if it does, I miss it. The Lord’s Supper unfolds not so much as a celebration but as an obligation. It’s mechanical. It’s something to check off our to-do list before we wrap up the service.
I’ve been to other churches that have Communion about once a quarter, while others do it weekly. And I went to one church that tried doing it every other week. There they worked to make it significant, but the effect was a mini sermon about communion after we already heard a full-length sermon about something else. My mind wasn’t in a listening mode.
No schedule seems right to me. This is why, when I looked at the biblical history behind communion, I suspected it should be an annual event, just like Passover.
Frequency Isn’t the Issue
At first, I suspected that I’ve simply been to too many Communion services over the years for it to ever be something I’d anticipate and that would connect me with God. Often the church liturgy—whether a formal one or merely a rut that leaders have slipped into—uses the phrase “celebrate Communion.” Often the church liturgy uses the phrase “celebrate Communion,” but it doesn’t seem like much of a celebration. Click To Tweet
Celebration, however, seems far from what takes place. If someone told me they wanted to celebrate my birthday and it proceeded like a typical communion service, I would say, “No thank you,” as politely as I could. Then I would do my best to avoid it.
Friday Night Pizza
Something I do look forward to in our family is Friday night pizza. Most every week we get together with our children and grandchildren to share a meal, celebrate life, and enjoy each other’s company. This is the highlight of my week. And for those few weeks where our schedules don’t align, I have a weighty dread that something profound is missing.
Why can’t I anticipate Sunday communion the same way I anticipate Friday night pizza? The reason is they are completely different. One is boring, and the other is exciting. One unfolds like a solemn funeral march (in the way it is, because, after all, Jesus did die), and the other is a raucous embrace of family. One lasts a few minutes before we leave the church service, and the other can go on for hours as we enjoy community.
The Next Step
If only Sunday Communion could be more like Friday night pizza, then my attitude would be different. I’d approach Communion with expectation and make sure I never missed it.
While some may find offense that I compared the ritual of another Sunday Communion to the joy of my family’s weekly practice of Friday night pizza, we can learn from this. We need to make the first more like the second. Then communion—which, by the way, started out as part of a meal—can become the celebration it should be.
How we make this happen in a church service, however, presents a significant challenge. There is simply too much ingrained historical baggage to overcome. That’s why I advocated we bring the celebration of communion into our homes to enjoy with family and friends, as part of a meal, just like the first communion and just like Passover that preceded it.
When we do this, our attitude will shift from moaning “Not another Communion Sunday” to exclaiming “It’s another communion Sunday!”
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.