Since it is some 2000 years since the earthly ministry of Jesus, is Communion now just a perverse celebration of the cruel and vicious death of the one we call Saviour? For it was indeed a most cruel and vicious act of execution, in which only a psychopath could find something to celebrate. In Australia, on the 25th April each year, we take the time to remember those affected by war. In particular, we remember our nation’s first blooding, at Gallipoli, on that date in 1915. On the 27th January each year, the world (generally), takes time to recall the horrors of the Holocaust of World War II. In each case we do not celebrate the gore or the horrors, but take the time to remember the sacrifices. In the words of our ‘Ode of Remembrance’, “Lest We Forget!”. As the saying goes, “those who do not heed history will be doomed to repeat it”. As Jesus said, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” (Luke 22:19). As we remember the sacrifices made during two World Wars, and other conflicts, that allow us the freedoms we have enjoyed, so too we remember that through His sacrifice, You-manity was forever set free from Satan’s cruel bonds.
Is it a religious rite used to oppress people with guilt? With deep shame and regret, the answer is, yes. This symbol of love has been, and sometimes still is, used to oppress and control people by implied guilt. In particular, 1 Corinthians 11:27-29, “Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body”, is often cited to bring one’s sins and shame to the fore. Of course, only the person administering the rite can then offer consolation and confession, and may even accept payment to ‘save’ the soul from damnation. All of which only raises the sin-consciousness of the participant, which the love of Jesus destroyed. Not realising our ‘one-flesh-ness’ with God, “not discerning the Lord’s body”, is our unworthiness. This rite is also often used to condemn those who, by the arbitrary rules of that group, are prohibited from participating. This creates an us-them schism. The ‘us’ believing they are better or more privileged, and the ‘them’ feeling unworthy, abandoned and dirty. Again, this gives opportunity for the person administering the rite to have control of those involved. Yet Jesus came to set the captives free, to enjoy the love of being, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:17). Jesus did not come to create another us-them schism, instead he says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”(Matthew 11:28), and in 1 Timothy 4:10 we read that Jesus “is the saviour of all”. All are warmly invited to share in celebrating our oneness with God and each other.
Is the consumption of the elements of Communion a symbolic cannibalistic feast? One of the ignorant charges made against Christians is that our rite of Communion is the consumption of human blood and flesh. Obviously not true, though even many of the followers of Jesus were appalled and left Him when He said that they could have nothing to do with Him if they did not eat His flesh and drink His blood. Though we do not consume actual human flesh and blood, we do indeed celebrate having in our bodies the body of God and the blood of life that makes us ‘one flesh’ with Him and each other.
Perhaps a wedding feast? Jesus said that it was a sign of ‘the new covenant’, that being the sign of the marriage betrothal between God and You-manity! It is a symbol of our wedding feast with our bridegroom. The bread and the wine can be likened to our modern wedding practice of having a wedding cake and toasting with champagne. As we eat the symbols of His flesh and drink His life-giving blood, then we symbolise our becoming ‘one flesh’ in, and with, God. (see our article on ‘Friend of the Bridegroom’.) Does not the word communion, not only imply speaking together, but also of the communion of man and wife, the consummation of being together?