By Amy Rager
During my time of coordinating the logistics for NCC’s worship gatherings I spent more time clarifying what communion was, how we did it, and why than any other component.
There are several likely reasons for the confusion:
- Jesus instructed us to observe the practice of communion in remembrance of him but few details are given as to how Jesus served ‘The Last Supper’ to his disciples.
- Some of our builders have had exposure to a denomination that requires participation in communion for salvation, leaving them with an intense need to ‘get it right.’
- Every denomination (and even most churches) celebrate communion differently.
So, I’m excited about this post in our series ‘Why We Do What We Do.’ Because communion is beautiful and the leadership of NCC’s intentionality and prayerfulness in laying out a ‘protocol’ for how we partake in communion each Sunday has resulted in a deep and touching section of our gathering. I hope reading about ‘the why’ of each aspect of NCC’s communion ‘process’ will solidify our understanding and help us approach the cup and the loaf with primed hearts each week.
So, without further ado, here are a few of the most frequently asked questions about communion.
Why do we leave our seats and approach the communion station instead of passing the elements around? For a couple reasons: this allows for each individual to take as much time as needed in prayer and contemplation instead of potentially being cut short when the elements reach their seat, and it facilitates community care (which leads us to our next section).
Why does the person holding the bread say ‘Body of Christ, broken for you’ and the person holding the cup say ‘Blood of Christ shed for you?’ to each individual? 1 Peter 2:9 says ‘You are a... royal priesthood… that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness and into marvelous light.’ Each believer has the capability and calling to minister to his/her brothers and sisters in Christ on behalf of their Father. Communion is a way that we can minister to each other every week. There is something utterly wonderful and incredibly powerful about looking at each person and saying to them ‘(this is the) Body of Christ, broken for you.’ A unique intimacy develops in that moment as we look each other in the eye and convey assurance that God’s grace is real and received. The cumulative effect of these brief interchanges is a body of believers who care deeply for one another and are accustomed to speaking words of truth and love.
Why grape juice instead of wine? It’s cheaper. Just kidding! Again, there are several reasons. First, we have recovering alcoholics in our body and some who have decided to never ingest alcohol for matters of conscience. While we could have two separate cups- one for wine and one for juice- at this time the pastors don’t believe the benefits of serving wine are greater than the potential for confusion, offense, awkwardness in dispersion, or the increased time required.
Why do we partake of communion every week? At the end of each worship gathering there is an opportunity for response. Maybe we need to repent. Maybe we need to spend time praising God. Maybe we need to reflect on all the God has done for us or on what he is calling us to do. Communion provides an appropriate outlet for all of the above and while it’s not a required response, it’s certainly a beneficial one.
Communion may be a weekly event but let's never let it be a mundane one, New Circle. Jesus gave us a gift when he instituted this tradition, and, like all good gifts, it's meant to be enjoyed.
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