Since Mike was ordained on Sunday, our seed-group for The Upper Room will celebrate communion for the first time together tonight. I’m excited. So excited in fact, that I fell asleep last night thinking about it. And now, as I get ready to leave the Carnegie library and go pick up the bread and wine for tonight, I just had to write out some quick reflections on the meaning behind what we’ll be doing tonight.
It will be a Thursday night, which already has echoes of Maundy Thursday and the Last Supper, appropriate given the name of our group. As I’ve reflected on the sacrament of communion today, I keep coming back to the theme of being united with Christ. As we partake of the bread and cup, we remember that we are called to die with Jesus (Mark 10:38-40). At the same time we celebrate that as we die and Christ lives in us we also experience newness of life now as we fellowship with the risen Christ (Luke 24:30) and the hope of resurrection to come (Rom. 6:10). There’s more to the Lord’s Supper than can ever be expressed in words (see my attempts here at The Paradox of the Lord’s Supper and the sermon/theological-lecture I gave at Open Door last spring on The Holy Spirit and Communion), but union with Christ seems to be the best summary of its manifold meanings.
What makes me most excited about tonight, though, is the fact that in celebrating communion we’re not only united with Christ, we’re united with each other. I think celebrating communion tonight will stand out as a milestone as our core group grows closer together in fellowship and in common vision for the church. That fellowship and unity is essential for a new church and can only come by the grace of Christ. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses” (Life Together p. 86). Though Presbyterians with our Word-centric worship services often forget this, I think the same could be said about communion. Our fellowship will live as it receives its nourishment from Christ, together in prayer, in study of scripture, and at the table.