I love Communion. It is a privilege to receive communion (or the Lord’s Supper) often. It is also necessary for those that believe in Christ to partake of this meal. We absolutely need the forgiveness of God in our lives and that is exactly what this meal offers. Not only do we receive forgiveness of sins, but we are also joined together with Christ and with the community of faith in which we belong. We make a powerful statement of unity in Jesus as our Lord and Savior when we come together and receive the Lord’s Supper.
But as great as the meal is, I have struggled with how to implement this sacrament from the beginning of my ministry. It feels like this sacred meal often times gets rushed through, becomes exclusive, or is done irreverently. It feels many times like we are losing the importance of this meal.
It’s a Meal we do Together
I’ve never wanted to administer the Lord’s Supper because I’m supposed to or it’s because it’s “the way we’ve always done it.” I want to do it because it’s powerful and it’s life-giving. This ought to be a meal that we think about and reflect on. But so often in the past, it has felt like communion was like a drive-thru fast food restaurant. At one point last year I remember we had three different stations for people to receive communion and it started feeling like a buffet. We had regular unleavened bread, gluten-free bread, grape juice, and wine all lined up with ushers. It just didn’t look or feel right to me. It looked like we were trying to just get as many people through it as quickly as we could. Now we have decided to take our time with communion by having worship songs playing throughout and communing a family or two at a time. Communion is ultimately about coming together with others. It’s a meal that we take that shows our unity in Christ and that He alone has the power to grant forgiveness of sins from God!
Should Children be included in the Meal?
God gives good gifts to His children. Even earthly parents know how to give good gifts to their children, and so none of us would wish to withhold from our children good gifts from the Lord. Our church tradition and history show us that the general rule for what ages ought to be communed is anywhere from 7 to 12 years old. There is also the practice of not having a child have his/her first communion until after the child would be confirmed, typically around the age of 12-14 years old. The major criterion has always been the child’s readiness to partake of this Sacrament. How do you make them ready: by instructing and teaching them what the Lord’s Supper is. If you are unsure if your child should be communed ask yourself these questions: Have they been instructed as to what the meal is? Do they understand and know what happens when they receive the body and blood of Jesus? Do they believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior? Are they able to self-examine themselves and repent of their sins? Do they believe that He alone offers forgiveness from God? Ultimately parents bear the responsibility of knowing if their child is ready to receive communion. At theCross we are exploring the idea of a first communion class for all those parents that want their children to receive the Lord’s Supper.
What to Do Before the Meal
Before we even partake of the meal, the Word teaches us that we are to examine our hearts. This meal is for repentant people that believe in the life-giving forgiveness of Jesus Christ. It is not meant for those that are not sorry for their sins or those that believe that there are many gods. It is meant for those that call upon Jesus Christ as their Savior!
“So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup.” -1 Corinthians 11:27-28
When our hearts aren’t prepared like they ought to be, or we come to the Lord’s Table but are not repentant we are actually harming ourselves. It’s not up to me to play spiritual referee. I cannot know what’s happening in the heart of someone else, so I have to believe that people have genuinely examined themselves before they come up to receive the body and blood of Jesus.
Is it Bread and Wine or Body and Blood or Both?
After we have examined our hearts and come up for communion we receive a piece of bread and a drink of wine (or grape juice). But it is much more than bread and wine! It is also Christ’s body and blood. We believe that when Jesus said “this is my body” and “this is my blood” that he meant that it is His body and blood. We do not believe that it is symbolic presence of Christ’s body and blood, but somehow we believe that Jesus Christ’s body and blood are in, with, and under the bread and wine that we receive. I know it’s confusing! It still is to me too! There are many times where I’m unable to fathom how an ordinary piece of bread or a drink of wine could also be Christ’s body and blood. It’s in moments like these that I’m grateful that I don’t have to have all the answers. God never asks me to be able to perfectly explain everything. He does ask me to trust Him in everything and communion is one of those moments. Even in taking the bread and wine when I don’t fully fathom how God works, this brings me to remember my own weakness which is ultimately what leads us all to the Lord’s Table. We are weak but through His body and blood we are made strong!