For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died. - 1 Corinthians 11:29-30
The other night, my husband and I did an outdoor movie night with our college and career group. For many of us, this was the first time we've met together in months. We walked around the property, fed the pond fish, and set up the projector to watch the movie for the night: Jurassic World. The eight of us gathered around a picnic table as my husband served hot dogs and chips. We ate, socialized, talked about God, and watched the movie as the sun went down. Later on, we set up some telescopes to view the comet as it passed by.
It was an extremely enjoyable evening. The weather was perfect. The movie was exciting. The conversation was good. The comet was fascinating.
As I sat there at the table enjoying a couple hot dogs with my group, I couldn't help but think of the early church in Acts 2 enjoying meals together and socializing. This must have been exactly what the very first Christian churches were like - preparing food together, socializing, and discussing God. For the first time in months, I felt true contentment.
However, not every church in the Bible was conducting themselves properly like the ones in Acts 2. In 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, Paul describes a big problem going on within the Corinthian church. Though they are gathering together to share in communion, their hearts are not in it. They are arguing, causing divisions, eating their meals without sharing, becoming drunk, and letting others go home hungry. This was definitely not how church or communion was supposed to be done.
Nowadays, when we think of the word "communion," we think of a church gathering where the preacher/priest says some prayers, and the ushers pass out some disgusting, cardboard-like crackers and a plastic shot glass half-filled with grape juice or wine. The congregation quickly swallows the tasteless cracker and drinks the little plastic shot of juice when the preacher says to. That's it. Communion done for the month. (Well, that is how I think of communion anyway. When I was a kid, communion night was always my least favorite church night.)
But this is not how communion was originally meant to be either. When Jesus performed the first communion, He was not in a church or synagogue. He was at a dinner table surrounded by His friends. He had "community" with them - hence the term "communion." He loved his misfit group of friends. He prayed with them, sang hymns with them, taught them, and ate with them.
This is what Paul is trying to describe to the church in 1 Corinthians 11:23-30:
For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it.” For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.
Paul is trying to remind the church that they need to emulate the way Christ performed communion. He explains how communion is supposed to be done:
Christians should be gathering friends, family, and community into their homes and sharing their meals with them. They should be praying together with humble hearts as they remember Jesus's sacrifice. They should not be indulging themselves by hoarding free food or getting drunk. Rather, they should be sober-minded as they share in communion. They should be examining themselves and asking God for forgiveness. They should be praising the Lord together. This is true communion.
The cool thing is, anyone can do this kind of communion service! You don't need to be a preacher. You don't need to have a church. You don't need to have a ton of guests/friends. You don't need to have a fancy home or make a crazy, intricate meal. You just need to have an open door, an open Bible, and an open discussion as you praise God with a few friends over a communion meal.
This is why Paul says, "For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died." (1 Corinthians 11:29-30)
Those are some pretty strong words.
In English, "The body of Christ," can mean two different things: Jesus's physical body, or the church body. In other words, when we take communion incorrectly or halfheartedly, we are dishonoring both Christ's body and the church body (also called Christ's body throughout Scripture.) No matter how you read it, it's not a good thing. The verse even states that when we do this, we are eating and drinking God's judgement upon ourselves.
The Bible is very clear that communion is crucial for us to perform, and it's crucial to perform it correctly. Acts 2:42-47 talks all about the importance of community, or communion, in the church. In John 6:25-59, Jesus talks about being the bread of life. He says,“Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." In Luke 22:14-20, Jesus preforms the first communion and tells His disciples to emulate it whenever they eat bread or drink wine. My point is, Scripture is very clear that partaking in communion is pivotal. So why aren't we doing it more often? And why aren't we doing it correctly?
Unfortunately, COVID-19 is still around and churches are not doing communion services anymore. Social gatherings have almost completely stopped. But this doesn't mean we need to stop doing what God's Word says to do. If communion is so important in the sight of God, then we should absolutely be finding a way to do it.
Here are some suggestions on how to do communion during COVID:
Do a special communion service over a meal with your own family and/or extended family.
Invite a couple friends to have an outdoor communion service with you on a sunny day.
Gather some friends over Zoom to read some Scripture and share in communion with some crackers and juice/wine.
Get involved in a small group at your church that celebrates communion - whether in person or over Zoom.
If your church doesn't have a group, find a group from another church. (Trust me, this isn't weird. I have a couple members in my college and career group that don't actually go to my church.)
Organize something on Facebook to have communion with some online friends - either in person or over Zoom.
If you can't find a group to partake communion with, pray to God to lead you to one. Trust me, He will.
*Even when no one else is available, Jesus is. I truly believe Jesus would love to share in a private communion with you if all else fails. After all, He knows your heart. He shared in communion with His disciples, and you are one of His disciples too. Even if it is a little strange, having communion alone with Jesus is better than not doing one at all.
As for me, I am going to try to do a special communion gathering with my small group in a couple weeks or so. I believe Jesus deserves to be remembered during this time, especially in the midst of all the anxiety and unrest. After all, the reason we do communion in "Remembrance of Him."