Luke 22:14 – When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. (NRSV)
I am now on the other side of the communion table. What I see and hear are different from presiding at the table. Instead of an assemblage of heads, I see a cup and a loaf of bread. Instead of the memorized ritual of holy communion, I hear words directed at me. Instead of the precise movement of the elders, I focus on selecting a choice morsel of bread and the nearest container of grape juice. Instead of the sound of the communion glasses striking the wood holders, I quietly place mine. I am frozen in the moment. Though surrounded by the congregation, I am alone; I am in a relationship with God. I wonder why?
I found my answer in these words from Wayne Meeks: "The cup of blessing and the broken bread represent 'partnership' with Christ."* Holy communion is viewed differently. It can be a simple sharing, such as the time when I visited a family living in a remote area. The family asked for communion, and the only things available were a stale crust of bread and cherry soda pop. Communion is also a well-rehearsed, choreographed event with the heavenly sounds of sopranos. I recall one communion service which involved fifty male elders, all dressed in grey striped trousers and tailed jackets.
Both communion services stressed that holy communion is not just a memorial meal or a sacrifice but a visible opportunity to express one's partnership with Jesus. We connect and re-connect to Jesus and His agenda through holy communion.
At the Last Supper, one disciple did not enter into the partnership, and others needed time to sign onto the partnership. Today, that partnership is easily clouded and rejected.
Every Sunday, my minister announces what is needed to supply emergency bags of groceries. He reminds the congregation that we have a partnership with Jesus: "I do not want to send them away hungry." (Matthew 15:32b NRSV)
Once a month, a church elder tells a story about Presbyterians Sharing and how what is collected becomes someone's pay cheque, rent on a project, or seed money towards self-sustaining projects. We are not alone; we are in a partnership.
At the entrance to my church is an old workman's boot. The congregation is invited to toss in a dollar coin to help meet the needs of those who ring the church's doorbell looking for help, because our partnership agreement recognizes that "you always have the poor with you." (Mark 14:7a NRSV)
Prayer: Gracious God, as we join the circle of prayer, stir our hearts into action. May no discouragement or disappointment or weariness threaten the partnership that we have established. Increase our love of the gospel, our love of the church, and our love of Your people. Amen.
* Wayne A. Meeks. The First Urban Christians. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2nd edition 2003, page 99.
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