Why I Love the Church – Communion

September 5, 2013

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Once, when our kids were still around, we took a week of vacation, but stayed at home.  When Sunday rolled around, we decided to visit a well-known mega church in Houston.  I knew they were good… but they were way better than good!  They were amazing.

The music was outstanding.  The lighting, sound and visuals were excellent.  The sermon was created and delivered to perfection.  The facility was world class and creatively designed to facilitate growth.  Everything was extremely professional. I was impressed…and envious.

As we trekked to our car (instead of taking the tram), we asked the kids how they liked the service.  Our youngest, Hannah, replied instantly, “I missed the bread.”

She was, of course, referring to communion.  In our Anglican tradition, communion (or Eucharist) is celebrated weekly.  Hannah, who was probably about twelve at the time, had received communion most of her life.  For her, it was not church without “the bread”.

In the years since, I have thought a lot about that day and that conversation.  The mega church had all the production value of a concert or Broadway play.  There was a “Wow!” factor that absolutely grabbed me. 

But Hannah was right.  While it was excellent in every way, it lacked something very important.  It didn’t have “the bread”.

Christians have been doing “the bread” and wine forever.  Here’s why.

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.  Luke 22:19-20 (ESV)

Unfortunately, though the centuries, Christians have battled one another about the precise nature of the bread and wine.  It is sad that something so central to Christian piety should have become a source of division.  But it has.  As a result, some have minimized its importance in the life of the Christian community.

That is a shame because communion isn’t about the bread and wine.  It is about Jesus, the Son of God who died for the sins of the world.  Followers of Jesus are to look beyond the bread and wine and see the one whose love took him to the cross.  The bread; the wine; the cross; Jesus; these are all inextricably linked.

As noted above, in our tradition, we celebrate Eucharist weekly.  And we do so in a special way.  The congregation comes forward and each person is given a piece of bread.  Then each person either takes a sip from a common cup or dips a corner of the bread into the cup.  Either way, the bread and the wine are both consumed.

While I won’t speculate about the nature of the bread and wine, I will say there is something powerful about this.  I cannot define it, nor do I care to try.  All I can say is that God is present in those moments.  It is a Holy Spirit thing that is beyond my ability to describe.  It simply has to be experienced to be understood.   And, once it gets into one’s inner being, worship (indeed all of life) is not the same without it.

So while some churches  have professional bands, lighting, sound and the like, I’m glad we have “the bread” every week.  It feeds my spirit in a way nothing else can.   And, I love that.

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