Communion Thoughts #1- What is Communion?

I have decided to take a few weeks to blog about the sacrament of communion. This is a special part of the church, but there is lots of disagreement in the church about what to call it, how to do it, and what actually happens when we do it. I think it is also time for some creativity and experimentation with the images and practices of communion that I would like to share.

So what is communion? Communion is a practice that was begun by Jesus and carried on throughout church history. It is at its core a ritual reenactment and a participator symbol in Christ’s death. I will leave the nuances of what exactly happens during this practice to a later blog discussion, since there is disagreement as to what happens and exactly how much this is more than a symbolic act.communion 4

I want to focus for this first blog post on what we call communion. When we take a look at the names of communion, we get a sense of the rich and complex set of ideas of what communion is. This has a great sense of past, present and future.

Some traditions tend to use the term Eucharist. This term comes from the Greek word for grace. It has a sense of celebrating and remembering Christ’s gracious act for us on the Cross in the past.

Some traditions tend to use the term Communion. As you can see from the title of this blog, my tribe tends to use this one. Communion gives the event a sense of community and relationship. This works on two levels. One the one hand, we are communing with God is a special way in this moment and we obey Christ and remember His sacrifice. On the other hand, we commune with one another as the body of Christ. This has a very strong sense of present as we communion vertically and horizontally in the present and we believe Jesus is present with us.

Some traditions tend to call this ritual The Lord’s Supper. This has a strong sense of future as we look to the end of time when Jesus will lead a great banquet here on earth. We are meant, then, to look forward to this event and long for it.

The other term that is sometimes used is the idea of a Love Feast or an Agape Feast. This is actually an early way to talk about communion, especially when it is done in the context of a shared meal. It represents the meaning of the sacrament as a symbol of love.

In most traditions we call communion a Sacrament. This word represents the sacredness of the event. It testifies to the inward spiritual activity that is going on in the outward symbolic act.communion stained glass 2

What we can see right away as we think about the names of communion is that it is not a single note symbol. It is a rich chord of different ideas, concepts, and symbols that can mean different things in different times. I will explore this further, but I want to right away challenge you to think about and appreciate the richness.

Here is the question I want to build to: Does your practice of communion at your church represent this richness, or is it always done the same way with the same words and the same ideas highlighted? Maybe your tradition says that it has to be done a certain way, but in most traditions there is a lot of opportunity for some freshness to communion. We need to explore some of these contemporary and original ideas.


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