Growing up in the South of the United States as a preacher’s son, I took communion more times than I could possibly remember.
Since we were Baptists in the South, our communion was definitely a grape juice and wafer affair. All of the deacons would line up and pass a small plate with little unleavened wafers down the row, before handing over a specially designed tray that held tiny glasses filled with ruby red grape juice that we dutifully chose a glass from and passed on. At one of the churches I grew up in, we even had small holders built into the pews for the tiny glasses to be placed into after we drank from them.
I didn’t find it strange or funny at the time… it was just what we did. It was a common part of our worship. It was tradition. It felt normal. It was built into our lives.
It took many years before I began to grasp just how significant that sacrament was, how extraordinary it was that we joined with millions of believers in its practice, and how deeply it would affect my heart when I began to consider it from a fresh perspective.
The first communion happened just before Jesus headed to the second garden for His final visit before the cross. Though He had repeatedly explained to His disciples what was coming, it seems that they truly didn’t grasp the significance of the moment as they shared that last supper with Jesus.
No matter how we view that meal through the lens of our culture or history, it is a curious moment. Jesus blesses and then breaks bread and says, “Take it; this is my body” and then He takes a cup of wine, blesses it as well, and offers it to them saying, “This is my blood” and they drink it.
Jesus tells them, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”
Eating and drinking… we all have to do it. We can’t survive without it. It’s probably humanity’s most common denominator. We eat and drink, or we die.
When we do eat and drink, the things we take in become part of us… food and drink sustains us, refreshes us… it keeps us alive.
I sometimes suspect that we’ve taken a practice that should be our everyday experience and we’ve made it a religious tradition. I believe that Jesus was telling the disciples that every time they eat and drink, we should remember Him. That taking Him in, allowing Him to sustain us from the deepest place, allowing His presence and indwelling to fundamentally reorder our lives should be so common to us that is like eating and drinking.
I think Jesus wanted us to realise that without sharing in His life, in our every day, we’re not truly living at all.
Ironically, I think knowing this makes the practice of communion even more sacred. I see it now as a powerful symbol of what should be happening in my every day, my every moment. I recognise that when I drink that thimble of grape juice with a tiny wafer, I’m embracing the fact that I need Jesus in every part of me, in every moment; that something as common as eating becomes extraordinary when I remember what He gave so that I could finally, truly, completely, live as I was created to live; reconnected to my Creator, fully awake in His presence.
Easter is the reminder that we didn’t join a religion or a moral modification programme. Instead, we are invited to eat and drink in the risen life of the King of Kings in the most ordinary of our moments, in the most difficult of our circumstances, in the most common of our hours. We entered an all or nothing relationship so much greater than any religion or tradition…
We must share in His life so that we can truly live as surely as we must satisfy our hunger and our thirst.
Our deepest hunger will only be satisfied with His presence. Our greatest thirst will only be quenched with His life.
So eat, drink, and remember…