Community Through Communion
The taking of the communion juice and wafer is part of an unbroken tradition as old as Christianity itself. Though many churches now use the disposable communion cup rather than the traditional wine glass, the fundamental idea behind communion has remained unchanged for thousands of years.
Communion is a time when the church gathers together to remember our Lord's sacrifice for all of us. The juice and wafer offers a physical symbol for his flesh and blood, and consuming them is our reminder that he sustains us.
Over the years, communion has become an increasingly inward-looking, individual event. While there is value to this, many churches often find themselves overlooking another very important part of communion. Jesus intended communion to strengthen the bond between himself and his followers, but also for it to strengthen the bond between church members themselves.
The proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the word itself. The word "community" and "communion" have similar roots. Our modern word of "communion" comes from the Latin word "communio," which means "sharing in common." In ancient Greek, the word refers to a community, society, or a fellowship between friends.
The point is that while a certain level of introspection during communion is great, the root of the tradition is in strengthening the bond of the church towards Jesus together as one whole body.
Looking through all the verses where communion is mentioned, it's never referred to as a solo activity. The first communion happened, of course, during the last supper as Jesus was gathered with his disciples.
Later, Acts tells us that the early church always practiced communion both as a way to remember Jesus and to develop fellowship. Acts 2:46 says, "Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts."
Later, Acts 20:7 tells us, "On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight."
Even from the first days, it's clear that communion was meant to be an action done together. But why?
Community Through Communion
The definition of the word and the original biblical basis for communion point towards it being an event intended to strengthen the community of a church. How can it do this?
Our faith grows stronger together, and our experience of communion is the same. As we take a communion cup and pass it on to our brother or sister in Christ, we remember why we are here together. As we eat the communion wafer we remember that not only has Jesus sacrificed his body for us, but that we, as the church, have now become his body in the world.
Look for ways to use communion to strengthen the spiritual bonds between members of your church. Encourage members to reaffirm their vows to Christ together with a neighbor instead of alone in silence. That's a deep bond that helps the individual bodies of a church develop into one body of Christ.
Communion is a time to remember our personal relationship with Jesus, but it's also a time of strengthening the community. In doing so, we grow our faith, not just as individuals, but together as one strong body in Christ.