One day, I came at “communion” from an angle that has for many years been essentially antithetical to my emphases. I “did communion” alone.
First, a lengthy, preemptive caveat: No matter how much I might seek to be engaged in the time-honored practice of meditating and worshipping in my spirit, pondering in my own heart the great love of God in Christ or the supreme sacrifice of Jesus at communion time and other times, I have for decades known that the essence of communion is not private. It is, at its conceptual root . . . well, communal. Yes, the thing we call “communion” or “the Lord’s Supper” does have a private aspect, and we can validly say that each one worships and communes with Jesus, but the group element has always been present, as I read and intuit. For too long, my Christian groups have downplayed the others aspect in favor of a completely Christward and/or inward framework. That is a shame. We should actually feel shame for the part of Christian tradition that avoids thoughts of one another while gathered together. At the Last Supper, Jesus did include the twelve and didn’t just go off by Himself, you know. With that said. . . .
I found myself alone on a Sunday. In the interest of openness and honesty, I will insert that there have been quite a few Sundays during the last couple of years in which none of us have been where Christians practice some kind of weekly communion. So, the habit I was taught as a child has not been so much a habit in recent times. But that does not mean my heart has stopped thinking about it, longing for a richer and more meaningful communion practice.
As I was saying, one day, I was not well enough to drive a good distance to see friends at their church with my wife and son. At some point mid-morning after a failed visit with other Christians nearby, I had this weird thought and followed through on it a couple hours later. I thought I would simply “observe” by having a little communion time on my own.
Components of my private communion included
- John Bright’s book The Kingdom of God—specifically, a section that detailed some of Jeremiah’s prophecies
- a copy of Great Songs of the Church No. 2—specifically, the songs “Majestic Sweetness” and “When My Love To Christ Grows Weak”
- a Greek New Testament
- the James Moffatt translation of the New Testament
- oral readings, for my ears and the Lord’s only, of a section of Matthew 26
- water, saltines, produce of the vine, and raisin bread
I suppose my little time lasted about as long as most traditional church communion observances last. I think it was at least as meaningful and on point. Oh, and my experience was at a table, after I’d eaten some vegetables; these facts connected me, if only on the surface level, with the Last Supper.
Later in the afternoon, I returned to John Bright’s book and finished a chapter that culminated in Jeremiah’s prophecies at the time of Josiah, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah. The concluding words of this chapter are below:
[True hope] lies in the grace of God, who accords to man a New Covenant—its law written on human hearts. The people of this covenant are the people of God’s Kingdom, for they are the pure in heart who have been, as it were, born again….Guard these words of Jeremiah well! You will hear them again. You will hear them in a little upper room; you will hear them when next you sit about the Lord’s table: “This cup is the New Covenant in my blood” . . . and again: Drink ye, all of it” (Matt 26:27).