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A few months ago, our Sunday Night Bible study began to discuss why we partake in Holy Communion. It was a challenging conversation that led us to three conclusions: 1) we partake together because Jesus, through scripture, taught us to do so; 2) the way we partake in Holy Communion today is highly traditional; and, 3) many could not connect the biblical experience Holy Communion and our tradition of Holy Communion. This led us to the challenge: can we recapture the way in which the early Church would have experienced Holy Communion so we can connect the biblical experience with our tradition today? I offer five reasons why our church is eating together on Sunday Morning.
1. Jesus ate with His disciples.
When we read Luke 22 for our Holy Communion text, we often jump to verse 19 – “…He took bread, and when he had given thanks, He broke it…and likewise the cup…” and so on… In reality, the picture of the Lord’s Supper is much different. Jesus had sat down with his disciples for the Passover meal. If we go back to verse 14, we read:
14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him.15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.
With that in mind, we should read verse 19 and 20 and we realize that Communion took place after they ate:
19 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.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
In order to create an atmosphere of unity, with fellow believers in Christ, perhaps we need to eat together to recreate the Passover experience and conclude with Holy Communion. Our meal together will remain sacred, but eating together will add the unity that we often miss in our traditional Holy Communion experience.
2. The early Church devoted themselves to eating together.
In Acts we are given a picture of the life of the early Church. At the end of chapter 2, we are given a summary of what they focused on as early Christians.
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
The “fellowship” and “breaking of bread” was more than simply a social and the partaking of symbolic items – which is what we traditionally do today. The early church devoted themselves to eating together. In fact, verse 42 is really a great picture of what an early Church service looked like: the apostles’ teaching (a sermon), fellowship (community), breaking of bread (a meal and Holy Communion), and prayer.
Because the early Church devoted themselves to this, we will be incorporating this experience in our special Sunday Morning gathering so we can gain a deeper appreciation of this holistic spiritual community that is described in scripture.
3. Holy Communion is about unity.
When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, one of the main issues he was trying to correct was their lack of unity amongst each other. This is how he began his Holy Communion discussion in 1 Corinthians 11:
18…when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you.
He was trying to make sure they knew that the experience should bring them together, and not further apart. In other words, Holy Communion should be about the corporate community and not just the individual person.
Holy Communion needs to bring everyone together. Eating together allows for this in a special way. We are people of community, we enjoy spending time with friends, and often eat together in a very natural way. If scripture is trying to encourage this sort unity, this is a great way to help us connect tradition with the biblical experience.
4. Eating together removes us from a tradition and into a new divine experience.
I will admit, eating together in a Sunday morning service is far from the norm. That said, eating together in general is completely normal. In fact, we encourage it and seem to enjoy eating together. It seems as though we’re not sure that eating together can be sacred. If scripture, however, paints a very spiritual picture of what a meal together entails, than perhaps we need to change our view of eating together.
I think by reshaping what we call normal we can lead ourselves into a new divine experience. That’s not to say our traditional experience isn’t already divine, please don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m simply trying to show that by trying something new, we are, in effect, able to view a divine experience in another divine way.
5. Eating together brings strength as we wait for Christ to return.
Holy Communion helps us remember what Christ did for us on the cross, reflect on what that means for us spiritually today (our salvation), and look forward to when we will one day eat together and partake with Christ (1 Corinthians 11:25, 26). In fact, Jesus tells us that He will not even eat this meal until the Kingdom is established and He and all believers are together (Luke 22:18).
By eating together in unity, we are able to remember and celebrate what Jesus has done for all of us and truly look forward the great meal we will have when the Kingdom is fully established in heaven. It’s beautiful.
We may have missed some of the meaning and significance of Holy Communion because we have disconnected the biblical experience of Holy Communion with our traditional experience of Holy Communion. Because Jesus ate with his disciples and the early Church ate together, Holy Communion started out of unity. By participating in a new experience of eating together, I believe we will be able to bring unity and strength to the body of Christ as we continue to be a witness for Him and wait for His return.
So, on Sunday morning, we will sing, pray, read scripture, eat together, share in Holy Communion, and share how Jesus is working in us and through us.
How can you recreate the communion experience? Tell us about what you have tried, or are planning to try?
After we experience this, I will post some things we learned, as a follow up post.