Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Communion of the Saints

A friend asked me once if I could give a one-word definition of what I mean by "fellowship." One word-picture to make clear what I think God wants fellowship to mean for us. I puzzled over that one--how can you get this idea down to just one word? What word would you use?

But, as usual, God was a few steps ahead of us. He defines what we are, and He gave not a word but a sacrament to show what fellowship is: Communion. Act and word together, giving a perfect picture of what He makes the church to be.

We celebrate it in different ways, but in essence the Communion is the same: Christians all partake of bread and wine (or juice, for many Protestants) that represent the body and blood of Jesus. It ties into the concept of a covenant meal, it is based on the Passover, and it is the sign of fellowship with Christ. Put yourself in the early church for a moment, and celebrate the Lord's Supper as they would have. You have heard the Scriptures, you've sung together and prayed. Now the gathering disbands except for those who have confessed Jesus as Lord, have been discipled as catechumens, and have been baptized. One loaf of bread is brought out and passed around. It comes to you, and you tear off a piece just as the person who gave it to you has done. You pass it on. The leader of the fellowship bids you all eat. He passes one cup of wine and each sips from it. You have fulfilled Jesus' words: "All of you, drink from it."

This is the crowning moment of the gathering. It shows you as people who have all taken the life of Jesus into you. You didn't eat and drink because you were all of the same race, or worked the same job, or had the same political beliefs. Those things had nothing to do with this meal. You gathered and ate and drank because Jesus lived in each and every one of you. You ate of the one loaf and drank of the one cup, and none of you has been left out of the Lord's Supper.

This is what fellowship in Christ means. We are common partakers of Christ Jesus' life. We are brought together as believers in Christ Jesus. The danger for Christians is when we base "fellowship" on something else. The bread we all eat of isn't the Bread of Christ's body but the bread of politics, or culture, or country. None of those is the Bread of Life. That Bread, and no other, is the essence of Communion; that Wine of Christ's blood is the only wine that unites us.

Here's one of the most moving videos I've seen, from Charlie Hall's song Mystery:

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