Monday, June 07, 2010

The heart of communion

It was communion at the Later Service yesterday, so we did a version of the communion we'd used at Prism this year (HT to James), namely, we had cake and wine to remember the partying Jesus and bread nailed to a plank to help us reflect on the suffering Jesus. I think it worked well.

Communion as we practice it in our churches (certainly Baptist ones) can be a strange affair. A couple of days ago, David Kerrigan blogged about the vicar of Soham offering communion to everyone attending church in the wake of the killings there and describing it as a moving expression of mission. I'm sure he's right.

But wasn't it also the most natural thing to do. Isn't communion a picture of Jesus inviting us all to sit and eat and chat with him? And isn't it entirely right that the group sitting round the table with him will be a mixed bunch? Certainly every meal, banquet, feast and party Jesus attended contained a pretty mixed bag of guests - pompous religious folk, hookers, local crime bosses, ordinary working people trying to make sense of the economy and where God had gone.

We've turned communion in our churches into a solemn recollection of how Jesus died for me. Our habit of taking a morsel of bread and sip of wine reinforces this: just enough to tickle the taste buds with the thought that this is all about me and my salvation.

But when Jesus came to the aid of the bride groom at Cana, he made enough wine to keep party going for a month because the whole point of eating and drinking together is not the eating and drinking but the conversation that happens between mouth-fulls.

When Paul condemned the table manners of the Corinthians, it wasn't because they were eating and drinking with the unsaved or allowing those who didn't know who Jesus was to eat with them. It was because some were eating and drinking their fill, while others - mainly manual workers - arrived at the end of the working day to find only scraps left.

The point of communion, says Paul, is that poor and rich are equally catered for and that in sitting and sharing together around the meal table in a way that stresses the equality of people in Christ makes that meal a memorial of Jesus.

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