About a week ago, Dave Dack posted on the subject of communion. He had a conversation with a friend in regards to the frequency of having communion. James, a friend of mine posted a great comment to the post: “Communion is a time for us to put aside lesser allegiances for the sake of the kingdom. “
This got me thinking about my own ideas of communion. First, I should note that I think the Eucharist should be the center of our worship together. However, in saying that I know that a strong biblical argument can’t be made for such a notion. Nevertheless, I do not think you can make any strong biblical argument for our modern practices of communion– tiny manufactured bread bits, Welch’s Grape Juice in tiny cups, and a table where no one actually eats. Even those who use wine like Jesus did and real loaves of bread are selling the whole act short.
Thus, I think that we practice communion in a non-biblical way– notice I didn’t say unbiblical or anti-biblical. Communion is obviously some sort of meal or bread break during the day (this is possibly where we get our phrase “take a break” from– it was actually a time to break bread). Jesus took an everyday ritual of Jewish society– the breaking of bread at every occasion– and infused it with new significance. In this way, the breaking of bread was a common experience for any outsider to the Christian faith and yet had a very distinct and peculiar ritual attached to it regarding Jesus Christ. It would be common during the 1st century to take the bread and say a blessing of some sort… such as “We thank Caesar for providing this bread to us on this day.” To remember Jesus Christ instead was a very radical act. Also, the act of Christian communion was always one where your neighbors were invited to partake with you… in this way the Christian breaking of bread was about extending friendship and hospitality beyond the Christian community, while also serving an important function of feeding the poor.
If you travel to the world, you will find many cultures that have such hospitality and breaking of bread practices. Back in college, I traveled to Costa Rica. Everyday around 3:30pm, everything would stop (and I mean everything) so that people could take a break. At that break would be bread. If we were walking down the road when this occurred, random strangers would invite us into their homes and share their bread with us.
This is somewhat congruent with what is going on in Luke 10 when Jesus sends out the 70 to various towns. They would come to a door and give the standard Hebrew greeting “Shalom.” If the greeting was returned (i.e. an invite was given to them to come in– this was the command to be hospitable given in the OT), they went in. If it was not received, then judgment was supposed to be declared.
All of this taken together, I would say that communion must be at least be a true breaking of bread, if not a meal. However, we need to find a complimentary ritual in our own day for it to take on the significance that it did in the first century. Is there a common thing most people do in our culture regarding food?