I was always nervous about Communion Sunday growing up.
When I was young I wasn’t sure if I should take a cracker from the plate or keep passing it down the aisle. Sure, I was hungry, but was I really allowed to “come to the table” as the pastor would say?
Then, once I did feel comfortable participating, I became nervous about spilling the juice. What if I soiled the carpet in God’s living room with Jesus’s blood?
Communion never meant much more than anxiety to me growing up. I never really got the relationship between a flavorless cracker, a baby shot glass of grape juice, and the immense sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
I thought to myself, “If the life Jesus offers is so full and abundant, why is this remembrance and celebration so stale and bland?”
As I’ve grown older, I still struggle with the idea of communion. I don’t worry about spilling the juice so much. But I do question the “why ” of the wine.
Of all the things Jesus did, why do we keep this particular tradition? Why don’t we ever wash each other’s feet on Sunday morning? Why don’t we pass a basket of fish and bread around?
I guess my problem stems from treating one religious practice as somehow more holy than another. Just as I don’t like the idea of treating one building or one person as more holy than another, I question why we this practice means so much to so many and so little to me.
Maybe it’s because growing up it seems like our church would arbitrarily bust out a Communion Sunday once a month or once a quarter, with little to no explanation or preparation of what was happening.
I have no problem with other people finding meaning in communion. I’m probably in the minority here. I’ve just never really connected to God through it, at least the way I’ve usually seen it done.
My vision of communion is the communal sharing of life amongst the church just as Jesus shared his life with us. I think communion can be practiced everyday, breaking bread with fellow believers across a dinner table.
When I worked as a youth minister I began to explore the origins of communion. I found out about the practice of the Agape Feast, where early believers gathered together for a meal, each person bringing food to contribute. I even organized one with the youth as we studied the purpose behind ancient church practices. (You can read about the Agape Feast in this article from EarlyChurch.com)
What happened to this type of communion? Why do so many churches feel like communion must be practiced one way and one way only? After all, we don’t always pray the only way Jesus said to pray, so why must we break bread in only one way?
In recent months though I’ve actually begun to find a taste for communion.
The church I attend now practices communion every Sunday, not just once a month or once a quarter. Instead of passing around processed crackers, we come to the table on our own accord, break off a piece of bread, and dip it in wine (0r juice if you choose).
Each person makes a decision to walk down the aisle and take communion, receiving it personally from another member of the church. Our pastor encourages us to consider the meaning of the ritual, spend a few moments in prayer, and even skip communion if there is sin we are wrestling with.
I still don’t think it’s perfect or even essential. But I’m starting to see communion now as what I think it’s intended to be.
I’m starting to understand communion as an imperfect reflection of God’s perfect sacrifice; a time for each individual to commit to being an imperfect disciple.
How do you feel about communion? How does your church practice the ritual? Is there another common church practice you struggle with?