Communion – Getting it Sorted

A little while back we began ‘re’-exploring the whole issue of communion last chance harvey dvdrip

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and how we practice it.

We have taken our time over the month to read, research, discuss and finally arrive at some conclusions. Yesterday Danelle led our meeting – one where the kids were present the whole time – and we finalised what we will do in regard to communion. It was great to have them there and have their input.

The short version is that in our community we will treat communion primarily as a time of remembrance and celebration of Jesus’ death for us. If it has more sacramental significance for you then that’s cool, but it wasn’t ringing our bells that way. (As I said previously that is probably more heritage than theology.)

We have decided to have ‘communion’ every week (all my heretical Church of Christ friends cheered loudly…) over our evening meal. We felt some use of symbol & ritual to mark the meal as different to every other meal was important, so the person whose home we are meeting in will begin the meal and remind us that this time is a time for remembering Christ’s death. They will break the bread and pour a glass of wine (Sacred Hill Cab Shiraz… hehe…) as well as light a candle to start the meal. Those who want to can take the bread and wine and those who just wish to eat the other food can do that. Its pretty simple and all are welcome. I guess we could even sing a song if we wanted to.

When I write it like that it seems so ludicrously simple and it makes you wonder why on earth people were killed over this issue. Anyway we agreed to re-visit what we do every 6 months or so to pay attention to how our approach is developing and to monitor whether it is growing in significance or ‘losing something’, although that may depend more on participants than on actions…

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33 thoughts on “Communion – Getting it Sorted

  1. Killing for communion… where’s that kinda zeal in the church today 🙂

    Hey mate what did you think of Lee Camp’s chapter on “Communion: why disciples share their wealth” in Mere Discipleship?

    Here’s a brilliant article from my mate Bill Cavanaugh about communion and consumerism called “Why God’s abundant life won’t fit in a shopping cart”

    This has been central to our life as the Peace Tree Community and why we share so no one is in need including our guests.

  2. Glad to see the former Bapo really is coming around 🙂 Actually had a conversation with my lovely wife about this last week and we thought that if we were to have communion at a home church it would be around a meal. We felt it would best give a good example of Jesus and his last supper / the passover / etc especially for the kids.

  3. Hammo, did it bother you at all that the entire emphasis on communion in the early church father’s writing is far more sacramental than your view?

    When I come can I share communion in my more mystical way?

    I really think the sharing communion with a meal is a very important part of the whole thing, good on you for that!!!

    In brethren circles they also do what they call a three fold communion a number of times a year. The three parts are the bread and wine, the communal meal, and foot washing. Very powerful practice, and I think everyone should do it once atleast.

    Also, from Tony Campolo:

    Catholics believe the bread becomes Jesus actual body, and the wine becomes Jesus blood.

    The Lutherans believe that the bread stays the bread, and the wine stays the wine, but Jesus presence is in the midst of the elements.

    And the baptists believe that the bread stays bread and the wine becomes grape juice.



  4. At my previous church we had communion every week. Where i am now, communion is a monthly observance. It’s pretty much a time and logistics thing. A couple of weeks ago i blogged on this topic, i don’t think I’ve blogged since, so it should be easy to find!

  5. “Take and eat this is my body given for you…”

    ….till he comes in glory!

    You are almost an authentic Anglican Hamo!

    Remembering the death of Jesus for us has got to be good for the soul.


  6. And Hamo did give thanks for the word ‘almost’ 🙂

    John – it didn’t bother me because I wasn’t overly aware of it. in the reading I did it didn’t come up as prominent. Feel free to shed more light.

  7. In critiquing our own (eg. Anglican) Lord’s supper services I have always thought the liturgies in the Book of Common prayer get the theology right (A remembrance of Christ’s death for us) but underplay the connections to the passover meal. At the last Supper, Jesus applied the teaching of the passover to himself. Making the Lord’s supper an even more powerful remebrance. So Paul can say in 1 Corinthians 5 ‘Christ our passover lamb has been sacrificed”.

    Even the conservative Anglicans underplay this, the less conservative ones reflect the wierd wacky world that is the Anglican Church.

    Tell me the old old story……………


  8. St Ignatius: “Consider how contrary to the mind of God are the heterodox in regard to the grace of God which has come to us. They have no regard for charity, none for the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, none for the man in prison, the hungry or the thirsty. They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, the flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His graciousness, raised from the dead.”

    “Letter to the Smyrnaeans”, paragraph 6. circa 80-110 A.D.


    St. Justin Martyr was born a pagan but converted to Christianity after studying philosophy. He was a prolific writer and many Church scholars consider him the greatest apologist or defender of the faith from the 2nd century. He was beheaded with six of his companions some time between 163 and 167 A.D.

    “This food we call the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except one who believes that the things we teach are true, and has received the washing for forgiveness of sins and for rebirth, and who lives as Christ handed down to us. For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God’s Word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the Word of prayer which comes from him, from which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus.”

    ” First Apology”, Ch. 66, inter A.D. 148-155.


    St. Irenaeus succeeded St. Pothinus to become the second bishop of Lyons in 177 A.D. Earlier in his life he studied under St. Polycarp. Considered, one of the greatest theologians of the 2nd century, St. Irenaeus is best known for refuting the Gnostic heresies.

    [Christ] has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be his own Blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has established as his own Body, from which he gives increase to our bodies.”

    Source: St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, 180 A.D.:

    And there is a whole lot more if you do some googling. I don’t agree with all of their reasoning either, but the tide of teaching is completely against the “remembrance” only idea.


  9. First of all – is cab shiraz in the Bible, Hamo? Will that cancel out the sacred hill brand?

    More seriously. Rev, I hear where you’re coming from. But the old question, what does that mean (short of transubstantiation, which I don’t think you’re proposing). I’ve often wondered if there’s more happening, but not having been raised in a sacramentalist tradition (another bapo), not sure what to make of it all.

  10. I agree with alex – these guys do seem to advocating a transub view.

    Honestly – I could be wrong on the sacramental nature of communion.

    I was wrong once before… on a Tuesday 1987…

    But I haven’t read it that way or experienced it that way so I would be a fool & lack intregrity to try and make it something I don’t believe it is too

  11. But if you read the overwhelming evidence that transubstantiation is exactly what the early church fathers believed, then read Jesus’ own words about this is my body, and you must eat my flesh and drink my blood, ect. I think that at the very least you must come to a conclusion that the cracker and grape juice and remember thing does not jive with either the early church or Christ’s teaching. It is my opinion, that the consubstantiation is closest to the truth, but I prefer a celtic catholic priest’s position which is, “well we know something happens when we take communion, and we not sure exactly what that is, but we know it is good for us”

    My disagreement is more found in their refusal to serve communion to non believers. If Jesus served Judas communion, then I am not going to deny it to anyone.

    And even if you are just using it as a representational symbol, it is a symbol of Jesus, and how disrespectful is it to throw that in the rubbish bin when you are done with it?


  12. “well we know something happens when we take communion, and we not sure exactly what that is, but we know it is good for us”

    OK, THAT I can understand 😉

  13. Would love to hear your point of view Chris. I went to school in the Catholic education system, and have grown to love a lot about the ancient tradition, however, there is much that I still very much dislike.


  14. with trepidation here we go …

    Very interesting thoughts here – I come from a tradition (Anglo Catholic,then Roman) where the Eucharist (not just communion – the actual consumption of bread and wine)is central to both Christian praxis and spirituality.

    For me, having a special rememberance of Jesus with bread/wine is lovely (an Agape meal?), it is not Eucharist in the way in which I see it been received and revealed by my tradition as inspired by the Spirit. To me (personally) the symbolic nature of what you are doing would seem incomplete, given that from where I stand, Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist in ways beyond our understanding (not putting money on how that occurs…even the RC theologicans argue over this one, and they are supposed to agree), and that then, for me, requires not only the eating and drinking part, but reading, teaching, praying, community, blessing etc. (I am not even buying into who should receive or not – that is a very vexing question!)

    That’s not to say I don’t like what you are doing (I do!) but that I would need MORE !!!

    (And I don’t think I was very clear here-sorry) 🙂

  15. “I don’t think I was very clear here-sorry”

    Chris, that’s a great start.

    “Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist in ways beyond our understanding”

    And maybe that’s where we should leave it (or am I copping out?). I think in our tradition we call it communion because, somewhere in there, is the idea of communion with God, and that has to go beyond remembrance.

    Of course, how much of our theology has, historically, been worked out in reaction to Rome so that we’ve tossed the baby out with the bathwater.

  16. I appreciate the thoughts – and Chris – you are welcome to here as a Catholic 🙂

    I wonder though if me seeing communion as sacramental is not unlike Chris trying to see it as remembrance?

    I think you can argue it both ways. I don’t doubt that. We can arrive at very different conclusions – history shows us that. But who is right?…

    Maybe that’s an even greater mystery!

  17. 1987 – hmmm I didn’t know him then but I could give you a few clues Grendel. I could also give you multiple other dates, starting with yesterday!

  18. Honestly John – I really don’t know!

    I’d be interested to hear what you think. Its obviously not literal otherwise Jesus’ followers would have had a bit of roast thigh and type O for dinner!

    As I re-read my thoughts on communion I may have distanced myself from sacramentalism a bit more than i intended.

    I have no doubts Jesus can be present in this event – as in any event – but this has not been the way my thinking has been formed primarily so it is hard for me to ‘get’.

    I recently read a book on ‘Baptist sacramentalism’ (an oxymoron not unlike ‘non violent cage fighter’) and I thought it made some good points, that we do see Christ as present in some things (eg preaching) but not others eg communion. I wonder if it is simply a product of tradition.

    Please ignore the incoherent rantings of my wife 🙂

  19. I dunno she seems pretty coherent to me. . .

    Hamo, from what I understand of catholic teaching Jesus in not just present at the ‘event’ but present in the host and the wine. From that perspective I think the Catholics get the best of both worlds in that they can have a sacremental and commemorative aspect. If you come at it from a commerative approach alone, that is all it can be and much of the mystery is lost.

  20. That would be right Grendel.

    A certain local theologian from my tradition, who best remain nameless here, maintians that all three eucharistic theologies can be maintained similtaneously. So celebrating communion can be seen in term of transubstantion (traditional catholic view a la Vatican 1), consubstantion (Luther / middle Anglican, and memorial (Baptist etc / Zwingli). I quite like that idea as it pulls down barriers between what “I” believe , and what “others” think.

  21. small correction: Luther was idiosyncratic on Lord’s Supper. Cranmer and the CoE’s (Anglicans) followed Calvin on the Lord’s Supper, the bread and wine feed the body, the gospel of Jesus to which they point as symbols, feed the soul. For Calvin and Cranmer the Lords’ supper is more than Anzac day ( a memorial if you take my meaning) Faith in the Gospel to which the bread and the wine point us feed the soul. Article XXVIII of the 39 arts.

    Modern Anglican teaching went loopy after the enlightenment.

    Gav the Anglican

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