By Sarah Morrison
Staff Writer for The Daily Grace Co.
We rearranged our church because of the Eucharist. There were other contributing factors, too, but I underestimated how the physical movement of chairs would have a spiritual impact. Not just on me, but on the church. Before the rearrangement, we had two sections of chairs with a central aisle. Now, we have three: one large center section and two smaller wings to either side. I know it doesn’t sound revolutionary, but I promise it was.
My husband and I work at a three-year-old church revitalization. It’s been a grueling three years, and we’re a very, very small congregation. When we arrived, communion looked like a plate passed with Styrofoam-tasting wafers and a small cup of red juice about once a quarter. It looked like personal reflection and solitude. After several months, it looked like the same wafers and cup but on the first Sunday of each month. Then it changed to unleavened bread, broken by each individual, and dipped in the cup. It looks like communal reflection and prayer. It looks like loving one another well, and it looked like worship of the Father, Son, and Spirit.
Prior to breaking the bread and dipping it in the cup, we communally and responsively read 1 Corinthians 11:23-26: For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, also he took the cup, after supper, and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” We read it in solidarity. We understand that we belong to one another, and collectively, we belong to Christ. Our communion practices remind us week-in and week-out of our brotherly affections and Heavenly citizenship.
I’m not saying your church is wrong if you practice communion another way, but I am saying the way that we have practiced the Eucharist has had a profound impact on me. When we rearranged the chairs in the sanctuary, we placed the communion table at the back of the room. Now the table, engraved with the phrase, “In Remembrance of Me,” sits directly behind the last row of the center section of chairs. Every single Sunday, while a hymn of grace is sung congregationally, each believer lines up behind the table, breaking the Matza and dipping it in the cup. They do so looking out at chairs filled with their spiritual family, with the cross above the baptistry before them. We break bread in remembrance of Christ and within the fold of His church.
I grew up in a Baptist church in the deep south. In my personal experience and memory, communion was more inconsequential. It came around every so often, the wafer was distractingly stale and the I never knew what I was supposed to do with the plastic cup once I drank. I’m sure some of my remembrances have to do with the lack of full understanding I had at the time; my worship of the Lord has doubtless grown since I was younger. Nevertheless, I find myself looking forward to communion now. As the week draws on, I remind myself that when Sunday comes, I have the privilege of taking communion with my people, my community, my church.
When my fingers break the unleavened cracker, I am reminded of how fragile and brittle life is. I remember that Christ humbled Himself into a frail human body with bones that break and joints that ache. I’m reminded that He willingly came here, for my sake and my good. I feel myself breaking His flesh, I feel the weight of my rebellion on His shoulders, the guilt that He bore on my behalf. When I dip the bread in the cup, I pull it out saturated in Christ’s symbolic blood. When I pause, waiting for the dripping to stop, I catch a glimpse of the blood that Christ spilled for me, and remember His pierced hands and wounded side, His bloody tears and painful crown. Finally, when I taste the drenched bread, and it meets my tongue, I look out over the gathered assembly of Christ’s church, and I remember that Jesus wasn’t just broken for me. He was crushed for Us, His resplendent Bride.
Each local church has the ability and right to choose how they practice the Lord’s Supper, and as long as it is practiced, I am joyful. This is merely a testimony of the way we have decided to partake, and the impact it has had on me in ways I couldn’t have foresaw. In any case, let us all be caused to rethink our posture toward the Eucharist. Let us be led into deeper worship of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Let us be caused to remember the unity and community of the gathered church. And let us look forward to the day when we no longer worship Christ at a distance, instead drinking the fruit of the vine with Him in the Father’s Kingdom.