I didn’t know that!!!!

I’m talking about Communion, the Eucharist.

We’ve been members of a reformed Presbyterian church for 2 years, having left a main-line liberal denomination.  In our old church, Communion was always 100 % scripted, out of a printed liturgy. It always felt rote.  It was rote.  I struggled to find meaning, to imbue it with meaning, to do anything to make it more meaningful.  I was totally puzzled when people would remark, ‘unless I’ve had communion, I don’t feel like I’ve been to church’ or ‘communion is the high point of the worship service’.  Struggling to connect with these dear people’s sentiments, I would default to either of two polar reactions:

  1.  Something’s wrong with me, that I don’t  ‘get it’
  2. I’m better than them, because I prefer sermons with good expositional preaching

But Sunday our pastor mentioned something in passing that really caught my attention.  It was one brief sentence that shifted my understanding of communion so that it became beautiful.  I want to explain that transformation and then make an application about why it’s important ‘to explain stuff’ frequently, whether the Gospel or communion (which is the gospel).

Here is what our pastor said:  “God’s forgiveness of you is just as real and tangible as this bread and wine.” (Id est.: “These matzo crackers and this wine or juice – our choice”)

I sat up and said to myself, “this is what Communion is all about?  It is a reminder of the fact that God has forgiven us via Jesus’ death?”  Suddenly all the centuries of Israelite sacrifices that offered only temporary forgiveness made sense.  But the old covenant could carry them only so far. (‘The Law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming..” Hebr 10:1) The beauty of the ‘new’ covenant is that Jesus sacrificed himself one time..and it’s totally effective and efficient for us who are members of the covenant.  The bread is the material reminder of his body punished and tortured for us.

But the wine – now that is something complex and marvelous!!  It’s a double symbol – one of blood spilt during Christ’s work securing us eternal forgiveness and one of something festive.  To this end, the wine points to the promise of  a party that will be unbelievable, a heavenly banquet.

Adam Powers who writes the blog Pleasing Pain once described Jesus’ first miracle at Cana as a sign to those well-versed in prophets: Quantity & Quality – John 2:6-10.  Excellent wine would be the herald of the Messiah’s arrival.  He quotes the prophet Amos promising dripping, sweet wine.  Isaiah echoes the festive theme.

On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.  Isaiah 25: 6

So during Communion, we get to share in a tangible reminder of what awaits us.  It’s a reminder of the wedding feast to which we have been invited as belonging to the bride.

Now here’s my application: In that one sentence of amplification from our pastor I saw how much I need to be instructed EVERY time we have communion. Just like I need to hear and learn about the gospel every day.  I hardly grasp the magnitude of the gospel, this amazing good news.  So I need my pastor to come at it a bit differently each time.  This is why clear and creative analogies help.

Once in our old denomination, it was the latest thing to do an ‘instructed Eucharist’ once a year for one’s congregation. That was definitely a move in the right direction.  More effective, however, is the drip method combined with an element of novelty.  I do appreciate our pastor’s thoughtful efforts to help us stay enthralled with God.  How beautiful is this gift of permanent forgiveness. I want to see over and over again what God has done for me by submitting to the cross.

And can you even take it all in?  That historical event outside of Jerusalem which secured our forever-forgiveness is also a party invitation!   I’m telling you, I need this kind of instruction EVERY week. Once a year is not enough!  I praise God for Bible-centered worship.