From the Christian perspective, God breathed life into us. We’re not just talking about the lungs, but the spiritual life, too. God is the great sustainer. While there are those whose perspective of God is the Clockwork God (the concept that God started the whole thing and “walked away”) and others for whom it is only biological life and no spirit, most people seem to be between. The two “extremes” operate within the framework that God is not active, and God does not interact with creation. Again, because one perspective has God off who knows where, and the other perspective has no God (or other “force” for that matter). There is an odd in-between version of the Holy Spirit as a non-personal “force”, but that is even harder to comprehend.
From an orthodox Christian perspective, without God’s spirit, we would truly be nothing more than mere biological machines. When we look at humanity, despite its often horrible state, we cannot help perceiving that there is something far more significant than just being a machine.
What happens, though, when someone takes normal things and makes them anything but normal? Ask Jesus.
When Jesus calls on people to eat his flesh and drink his blood, let’s be honest, it isn’t normal. The church has long held the view that there is definitely something going on here. On one hand, there are those that believe that when we take communion, we are literally (not just spiritually) eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus (called transubstantiation, if you want to know). There are those that believe that it is merely (and only) a memorial, we do it solely because Jesus (and Paul) told us to (which are good reasons), and because the church has done it for centuries (tradition is not a bad reason either). There are two other major perspectives. Consubstantiation is a belief that it is both body and bread, and blood and wine. The last belief is that while it is “just” bread and wine (in the Nazarene and other denominations, grape juice), it is far more than “just” that. There is an understanding that Jesus is present at the table presiding over communion, in the same spirit as the Last Supper.
Think of that. You’re eating in the presence of Jesus, as a guest.
Regardless of your perspective on communion, the church (Orthodox to Roman Catholic to Protestant) calls it a sacrament. What is a sacrament? It is something instituted by an act of Jesus. Within the larger Protestant grouping, it is one of two sacraments, the other being baptism. Other traditions count additional acts as sacraments, but communion and baptism are universal.
There is another aspect that is crucial to the sacraments…ourselves. Sacraments are instituted by God, so we don’t make them holy. However, Paul warns everyone to take them seriously. This is why an understanding of at whose table you are eating is so important. Not only are you eating and drinking with your local church family, there is the larger denomination, the church as a whole (again, across denominations), and with the church universal (both before and after us). It should never be something approached flippantly. This does not you cannot be joyful. In fact, joyful and thankful should be the exact perspective we bring to the table.
1) For some communion should be done rarely; at most, once a month. For others, communion is weekly. For others still, it is every worship (which can be many times in a week). What is your perspective? Why? Can you see why others might have a different perspective?
2) Do you ever think of Jesus hosting your table during communion? Does that impact how you view communion, and your participation in it?
3) Why do you think Jesus and Paul emphasize the body and blood? What is the significance of those two words?