The classic definition of a sacrament is “an outward sign of an inward grace.” The Presbyterian Church celebrates two sacraments: baptism and holy communion. Both of these represent occasions in the life of Jesus when he told his followers, “I want you to do this!” And, we do.
Communion is known by many names. The word “Communion” suggests an intimate union and also the word “community.” This holy meal is indeed a time where we celebrate our oneness with God as Creator, Redeemer and Spirit and also with each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes the feast is known as the “Eucharist” coming from Greek word for “thanksgiving.” In the Eucharist we recall God’s mighty and loving acts for us in the “Great Prayer of Thanksgiving.” The early church called the sacrament “Breaking of the Bread” pointing to that part of the service where Jesus does break a loaf of bread saying, “This is my body broken for you.” The ritual is probably best known as “The Lord’s Supper” which reminds us what we celebrate was an actual meal Jesus had with the twelve disciples where he actually broke bread and poured out wine and called upon his followers to “Do this in remembrance of me.”
Ultimately, however, the meal is more than a memorial to something that happened long ago. In the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, we believe that Jesus is really present with us. We believe that eating the small quantities of bread and juice together as the people of God nourishes our spiritual selves in a way beyond our understanding but that nevertheless is real and helpful. If we were never again to celebrate the Lord’s Supper we would somehow be spiritually weaker. With this understanding, we seek to make the Lord’s Supper available to as many people as possible, including children to whom it has been explained, and to those who cannot join us in Sunday morning worship.
Communion, however, is not magical. Rather it remains a mystery that connects us in a special way to our loving God and to one another. It is not an act we do casually but rather with great intentionality. I was going to say “do seriously,” but somehow that leaves out the possibility for joy that is also part of our common meal.
Join us this Sunday as we join with millions of Christians around the world in celebrating this holy meal that inextricably ties us with the God who saves us with all those, who like us, acknowledge our common need to be saved… for grace.
– Mark Sprowl