The Eucharist

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Whilst serving our children’s ministry workers Holy Communion, the children asked if they could have some bread and grape juice (we use grape juice in deference to those who have a problem with alcohol) my reply ‘of course, if you can tell me what it means?’…they smiled but couldn’t answer my question.

“Therefore, 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. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself” 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 NIV

Holy Communion and The Eucharist are both terms that have been seemingly abandoned in many modern churches. I wonder if in our modern church context we still understand the significance of The Eucharist and the special part it plays in our lives.

So I'd like to spend the rest of this post exploring with you what the passage in 1Corinthians may mean to us today..?

1. If we take Holy Communion with an ‘unworthy manner’ we will according to St Paul be guilty of sinning against the body and blood Jesus. I believe that the meaning here for us in the modern church is what they represent, the sacrifice of Jesus.

2. In the past this realisation of our guilt in front of Christ has resulted in the lifelong burden of self-reproach because of a perceived ‘unworthy manner’ being heaped upon believers. Some congregations and individuals have been very damaged by this process and we have to be mindful of this especially in light of the words of Christ according to Matthew.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28 NIV

If people feel too guilty they may actually consider themselves unable to take Holy Communion and therefore would lose that very important connection to God that Christ left us with and whilst we should feel regret over our sin we to need to be able to stand back, come face to face with it, hand give it over to God and to seek forgiveness. Sometime the words are not there but the very act of Holy Communion, the receiving of the Body and Blood can give us that forgiveness when words are not enough.

3. So we need to think about preparation for partaking of this special time. Most churches have The Eucharist each week, my home church is once a month, so in some ways this time is even more special. And how should we prepare?

4. Maybe we can spend some time gathering our thoughts before God; maybe we could just stop, be silent for a few minutes and contemplate where we are in our lives or where we are with Christ and God. Some people may want to set aside a number of specific prayers or readings to contemplate or maybe thoughts will turn to reconciliation and forgiveness for others. These will of course differ according the situation in each of our lives.

5. There is a sacred time after receiving Holy Communion. It is a special time when we have a deep connection with Christ it as we try in humility to contemplate what has just happened, how Christ is present within us and within our lives and to silently thank God for the chance of forgiveness and to express sorrow for short comings, for when we miss the mark.

6. And out of The Eucharist we may learn about our unworthiness to partake of Holy Communion. Christ will teach us that nothing we can say or do makes us worthy of this sacred gift and that only Christ can convince us that the confession of our unworthiness to partake permits us to participate in a worthy manner he ask for.

7. And finally it will lead to the realisation that the Eucharist will be for the forgiveness of our sins, for the healing of our souls, our bodies and for our salvation and not for our own condemnation and judgment.

What do you think? What does communion mean to you? Do you think there should be any rules about who takes communion? What is the practice of your own faith community?

Marc Alton-Cooper