What makes a church a church and a body of Christ is not what many of us think. We might think it is membership. But what makes a church a church and a body of Christ is Holy Communion. It is the passing of bread and the cup to each other that we bond together as a faith community, and engage together as a Body of Christ.
Holy Communion is what reminds us we are bound by Christ, to becoming a people of Christ; proclaiming the gospel of Christ, and serving the needs of the world as Christ would have us serve.
In the Congregational tradition, we do not have a specific Holy Communion theology or doctrine or creed that is mandated to us. In the Congregational tradition Holy Communion is one of the two sacraments celebrated (with the other being baptism).
And, because we are not mandated by a specific theology, creed, or doctrine, we have the freedom to express ourselves as a Body of Christ, and thus Holy Communion can be served in a variety of ways.
The most traditional way is to have the gifts of bread and cup blessed and prayed over with words of Institution, and then dispersed to the congregation by minister and deacons, taking the gifts to the congregation and serving aisle by aisle.
As the deacon/minister waits at the aisle, the gifts make their way into the pew to where the "last" person is seated. It is customary that no one serve themselves until that "last" person is served. Once that person is served the gifts make their way back to the deacon/minister, with each person taking their offering.
This may sound trivial but there is deep theological significance to this ritual.
The passing of the gifts to the "last" person embodies Jesus' command that the "last shall be first, and the first shall be last". In other words, we do not serve ourselves until the last among us has been served. It is this symbolic action that reminds us that we are called to "go to the margins and edges of society" with the gospel of Christ.
When we pass the bread and cup to each other we are effectively saying to our pew partners "We are friends in Christ... I join with you in becoming part of this faith community... I join with you in serving the needs of this church... I join with you in being a steward of this church, and a steward of the Good News".
Not until we have all been served does the congregation partake of the gifts. Our eating and drinking in unison, as a single body, celebrates our corporate relationship with God.
When we eat and drink in unison, we are effectively becoming a Body of Christ and saying to God and each other, "We are together as one".
We proclaim this mystery of Christ's presence, known to us in bread and vine, at least twice each month, the first and third Sundays.
The corporate nature of this act; the words, the prayers, the movements, the eating and drinking are what makes a church a church.
Another method is by Intinction, which is when the bread/host is given to each person on an individual basis, and individually each person dips their bread into the cup, partaking in the gifts in a private relationship with God.
But from the perspective of God, whatever methodology is used, when we partake, we are joining in the world-wide Body of Christ.
This coming Sunday, January 6, will be Holy Communion Sunday, as well as the celebration of Epiphany.... Yup the three Wise People finally arrive!
Our children are invited to remain in worship, celebrating the arrival of the three Wise People and celebrating with their church the meaning of Holy Communion; its mystery, its joy, the sacred bond it creates within our church.
They will be witnesses to our becoming church. Think about it for a moment... Jesus took the most basic of food elements of any culture, any society, any country... daily bread. And he transformed it into his spirit, to be given without constraint, and with abundance.
And so, it is that every time we eat bread or drink wine/juice, Christ lives!
What better way to proclaim the Good News of Christ.
What better way to spread the spirit of Christ than to offer one and all the body and blood of Christ, broken and shed for all, for the forgiveness of sins, that ALL may come together in making the world a better place,.
That is why church exists. Come, join with us, celebrate with us the Good News of Christ, and the good news of our church.
With faith, hope, and love,