What Is Communion and Why Do We Do It?
As a parent of three young kids, I’m often asked the question, “Why?” Why this? Why that? I wish I could say I always answer patiently. But I don’t. “It’s just what we do” comes out of my mouth way too often. Maybe you know the feeling? The irony, of course, is that I’m a lot like my kids. I love to ask, “Why?” And in the same way, “It’s just what we do” is seldom an answer I’m satisfied with.
For many of us, taking communion at church falls into the category of “it’s just what we do.” But, if we’re honest, we may not be entirely sure what it is and why we do it. If that’s you, you aren’t alone!
What is communion?
At a basic level, communion– also called the Lord’s Supper– is one of two sacraments that Jesus instituted. (The other is baptism.) Jesus established communion on the night he was betrayed as he ate a meal with some of his friends (Matthew 26:26-28). Sacraments symbolize and guarantee God’s promises to us. They help strengthen and encourage us as we follow Jesus. During communion, the bread and wine symbolize Jesus’s body and blood.
But why do we take communion?
The simple answer is that Jesus commands us to (Luke 22:19-20). “Do this in remembrance of me,” he says. Remembrance of what? His impending death. And so, for more than 2000 years, Christians all over the world have been doing exactly that. Gathering together. Eating bread and drinking wine (or juice!). Remembering Jesus’s sacrificial death on the cross.
So, is that all communion is?
Is it just a ritual we do to remember what Jesus has done for us? Well, no. That’s because, when we take communion, it’s not merely about what we do. Something is actually being done to us as well.
Christians have long debated what exactly it is that’s being done. At The Crossing, we believe that when we take communion together, Jesus is really, spiritually present in the bread and the wine. Meaning that when we eat and drink those things, we receive Jesus and the promises he makes to us in faith.
What are those promises? Jesus promises to forgive our sins (Matt. 26:28). To be present with us (1 Cor. 10:16-17). To nourish and satisfy us (John 6:35). And to strengthen us, grow us, and help us persevere in following him (John 6:53-58).
Following Jesus is a long journey, and God knows that every one of us will need encouragement and strength along the way. Sacraments are some of the means by which God does just that. Taking communion doesn’t make you a Christian, but it does help you follow Christ.
So, the next time you eat and drink the bread and the wine, use it as an opportunity to put your trust in Jesus, to renew your love for him, and to reflect on the promises he’s given to you. And remember, when we take communion together, it’s not just “something we do.” It’s a tangible reminder that Jesus has done and is doing something to us and for us.
Join us for communion at The Crossing starting Sunday, January 31.
You can come in person or tune in online with our livestream on Sundays at 8:30, 9:45, or 11:00 a.m. (If you join us online, be sure to have communion supplies at home so you’re ready to participate with us.)