See parts I and II for more on the sacrament of Holy Communion. Every Sunday in some churches, and once a month or once a quarter in other churches, there is this mysterious ritual that takes place involving bread and wine (or grape juice). The purpose of this series of posts is to try to give a better understanding of the sacrament and how it is meaningful to Christians.
In many communion liturgies this statement of faith is said: “Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.” If we look at each of these, we get a good understanding of the sacrament.
“Christ has died”
In part, Communion is a time to remember Jesus’ death, his self-giving sacrifice on our behalf. As I mentioned earlier, our Communion has it origins in the Passover Seder. The Passover is a remembrance and celebration of God’s deliverance of the Israelites from certain death by of the shed blood of the lamb. Communion, having its roots in the Passover, is a remembrance that we have been delivered from spiritual death by the shed blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus.
“Christ is risen”
Communion is a celebration of the Resurrection, recognizing and giving thanks for the Risen Christ. The bread and wine are visual reminders of the living presence of Christ among us, the Living Bread.
Methodists also believe Christ is with us in some unexplained way (there is a Real Presence), but we don’t try to speculate on how that happens. Not only is Christ joining us for the holy meal, but the Holy Spirit is at work in the sacrament, imparting grace to us. Our response to the Risen Christ, then, is one of thanksgiving, joy, and celebration.
“Christ will come again”
In Communion we also celebrate the final victory of Christ, when we will all feast at his heavenly banquet. We anticipate God’s coming reign, which is God’s future for all of creation. As Jesus said, “I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29).
Communion is an act of worship, and worship is very important to God, as I mentioned in my earlier posts about worship. While Holy Communion is a mystery in many different ways, it was given to us by Jesus himself and should be observed. We should receive it with a sense of awe, expecting Jesus to be with us and the Holy Spirit to work in us, and for us to be transformed by God’s grace. Let us also remember that billions of Christians around the world and in heaven are celebrating with us whenever we join in this preview of the heavenly banquet.