I’m continuing my blog series on why we do and practice the things we do at Pantano. One thing folks who visit notice is that we partake in communion, or “the Lord’s Supper,” each week. It is sometimes called the Lord’s Supper because Jesus initiated it during his final meal with his disciples before he was arrested (see Luke 22:14-23). Roman Catholics and others refer to it as the Eucharist which comes from the word “thanksgiving” as Jesus gave thanks for the cup of wine and the bread before he shared it (see Luke 22:17,19; 1 Corinthians 10:16,17). We usually call it communion which comes from the Greek word “koinonia” which means sharing something in common.
There is scholarly debate about whether weekly communion is commanded in the New Testament. I’m not going to get into that. However, I believe there is strong evidence that weekly communion was the pattern of the early church. There are three scriptures that seem to indicate that the church shared the Lord’s Supper (“broke bread”) as they gathered together on the first day of the week, or Sunday, (see Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:20-25). I don’t think Jesus meant for us to be legalistic about how often we partake in it or even on what day we do so. Rather, it is the reason we celebrate it that matters.
Jesus and Paul were clear on this point. We take communion to remember the death and sacrifice of Jesus (see Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:24-26). It is a worship moment where we celebrate the Gospel every week. I love how John Weirick says it: Jesus was broken for us so that we can be fixed by Him. It is a time of spiritual pause where we reflect on Jesus as our Savior and our hope through the forgiveness of our sins because of his sacrifice. We need to “commune” with God as much as we need to sing songs of praise and hear God’s Word. That’s why I feel very strongly about having this as a part of our Sunday services. We need a time of quiet and reflection in every service. We need this time to celebrate all of what Jesus has done for us and who he is to us.
Here’s how I have used my time during communion. I almost always use it as a time to confess my sin like John encourages us to do in 1 John 1:9. As a follow-up to the confession of my sin, I also use the time to recommit to being faithful to following Jesus. In baptism, I made a vow and promise to follow Jesus with my everything and nothing less. In communion, I admit the specific ways I wasn’t fully committed over the last week and reaffirm my desire to fully submit to Jesus. Finally, I often use the time to take the teaching of that week and determine how I can or should apply it in my life. Communion is a truly holy moment and time in our worship that I have come to treasure. And I get to do this with my brothers and sisters who are also trying to follow Jesus. It is a truly holy moment.
Who can take communion? Anyone who has made a decision to follow Jesus can partake. Small children shouldn’t be taking communion as a “snack” during a service. Parents need to be able to tell their children that they can partake when they are old enough to celebrate and remember the body and blood of Jesus sacrificed for our sins after having made a decision to follow Jesus that has been confirmed in baptism.
One of the criticisms I get from folks visiting our church about having weekly communion is that they “fear” it will become rote and meaningless. Anything can become rote and meaningless, like my daily time of Bible reading or even attending church or my small group. It is up to me to make any regular habit something that stays fresh and not a rote, meaningless ritual. In fact, we should come to a Sunday service with a heart prepared to meet Jesus at this weekly “meal.” Think of communion this way: you have a dinner reservation with Jesus every week. That is something we should anticipate with both our hearts and minds so ready to meet Jesus.