During a Confirmation Class, a pastor asked the group of teenagers to name some things Christians—and specifically United Methodists—do that most other people do not. One of the girls raised her hand and said with a smile, “We dunk our bread in grape juice.” Well, yes. Yes, we do.
This year, we are tackling another one of John Wesley’s means of grace. Last year was prayer. This year it’s communion.
A little history: Due to a lack of ordained clergy in the early days of the church in the United States, a history of receiving the sacrament quarterly (four times per year) is the habit in some places. More than 90% of United Methodist congregations in the United States celebrate the Lord’s Supper at least once per month, usually the first Sunday of the month. This Holy Mystery and The United Methodist Book of Worship encourage weekly communion, which is our practice at Asbury.
This sacrament has a few names, each focusing on a different aspect. According to This Holy Mystery, “The Lord’s Supper reminds us that Jesus Christ is the host and that we participate at Christ’s invitation.” Jesus invites us to take part in the special meal he ate with his disciples the night before his crucifixion.
The Holy Mystery continues, “The term Holy Communion invites us to focus on the self-giving of the Holy God which makes the sacrament an occasion of grace, and on the holiness of our communion with God and one another.”
Finally, “Eucharist, from the Greek word for thanksgiving, reminds us that the sacrament is thanksgiving to God for the gifts of creation and salvation.”
All that happening in one relatively short part of our worship service.
We United Methodists practice open communion, which distinguishes our invitation from some other Christian denominations that may require additional rites before one is welcome to the table. We believe that Christ invites to his table all who ‘love him, earnestly repent of their sin, and seek to be at peace with one another.’ There is no minimum age. Even infants and children are invited. They are part of what we are all doing together, so they are welcome to receive.
Communion is our meal, it is our feeding. During communion, we are fed with the body of Christ by the Father and empowered by the Spirit to live as Christ’s body in the world.
Over the next several months, we will be talking and thinking about communion. Expect some new and different ways to celebrate the sacrament. Be open to experiencing a different way of receiving the bread and the cup.
In Christ’s Name, Pastor Cheryl