On the night of His betrayal and arrest Jesus prayed that all of us would be one just as He and the Father are one (John 17:1-2). And yet, relational conflict and the absence of congregational community continues to move our focus away from Jesus’ desire for all men to be reconciled in “one body to God through the cross” (Eph 2:16).
Churches attempt to create harmony and offer the healing aspects of a congregational community by planning activities, leading conferences, promoting affinities, and organizing worship gatherings. What these congregations are missing is the foundation of healthy community already available and waiting for them at the Communion Table.
And yet, this ordinance often holds little significance. It’s infrequent and even passive observance has caused worshipers to come to the Table not expecting anything to happen. Congregations know they have a mandate to observe this ordinance but often wonder if the bland styrofoam wafers and grape juice is all there is.
Paul spoke of Communion as the fellowship of sharing in the body and blood of Christ…and it is never a solitary act. Henri Nouwen wrote, “Precisely because the table is the place of intimacy for all the members of the household, it is also the place where the absence of that intimacy is most painfully revealed.” The Communion Table is the place where we pray and ask: “How was your day?” It’s the place where we eat and drink together and say: “Come on, take some more!” It is the place of old and new stories. It is the place of smiles and tears. And it is the place where broken relationships are mended and new relationships are formed.
Two interactions are evident in the celebration at the Table: the vertical Communion with Christ through partaking of the elements; and the horizontal Communion of believers unified in identity and relationships at the Table. Communion must not only be a time of personal assessment, but also a time of corporate appraisal. Since the Table is the place of intimacy, it is around the Table that we rediscover our relationships with each other. That vertical and horizontal bond reminds us that the story is not just Jesus’ story but also our story as we are invited to step into Jesus’ story. It reminds us that the final chapter is yet to come and we get to be a part of the unfolding of that story as unified insiders, not just casual observers.
When we accept Jesus’ invitation to join Him at the Table we are reminded that, “The Lord’s Supper not only gathers a community, it creates a community.” Individual and congregational Communion available at the table encourages unity and as a result of that unity an intimacy that cannot be manufactured.
Creating community through activities or even musical selections is a shallow attempt to manufacture what is already available at the Communion Table. When we gather at the Table on level ground with a common purpose, our eyes will be opened, we will see Christ again, and we will see each other with new eyes through the breaking of the bread. Community begins here!