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40 Days of Communion
     “This do in remembrance of me." With these words ringing in our ears, we regularly celebrate communion. As we drink the cup and eat the bread, we reflect on Christ's sacrifice and look forward to his return.
     Yet communion is more than a memorial. Our continued participation in this powerfully symbolic ceremony molds our thinking and brings to life deeply spiritual truths in very concrete ways. It shapes our identity as a people of God and provides the truly blessed assurance that we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. The "message" of communion is important and deserves our full attention.
     Jesus’ last meal with His disciples took place during the celebration of Passover. Giving them bread, He said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”  Next, from a shared cup, He told them, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:26-28). Believers today observe the Lord’s Supper as a “symbol” of cleansing, consecration, and communion. 
      Jesus’ blood cleanses us of sin. Starting with Adam and Eve, God required a blood sacrifice to cover transgressions (Gen. 3:21; Lev. 17:11). But this was just a temporary solution, as the next offense required another sacrifice. Jesus was God’s permanent answer to the problem: He took upon Himself all sin—past, present, and future—and died to pay the full penalty. 
     When a believer receives salvation, he or she is consecrated - or set apart to the Lord.  His or her sin is forgiven, and they shall receive eternal life as well as the indwelling Holy Spirit. But if they at times forget that they belong to the Lord, they may give in to temptation. The bread and the cup provide an opportunity to remember what the Father has done for us and a time to renew one's commitment to the Lord.
     The Lord’s Supper is also a time to be in communion. We are connected not only with the Lord who saved us but also with past and present believers. Among members of God's family, we find comfort and support, just as the disciples and the early church did.
     The Lord’s Supper is a good time to stop and recall what Jesus has given us. Partake solemnly, gratefully, and, yes, JOYFULLY.
An Unworthy Manner?
     From what has been said, it follows that believers should share communion at every reasonable opportunity. Yet, often believers abstain from sharing in this rich experience. They allow the bread and the cup to pass them by as they sit in guilt and shame, wishing they were more worthy. Remember Communion is about us remembering the Lord Jesus, not our failures but at Christ’s forgiveness.
     What is it that drives believers from their Lord's Table in these spiritually intimate moments? This practice stems from Paul's warning in 1 Corinthians 11:27-32. There Paul tells us to examine ourselves before communing, for "whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord" (1Cor. 11: 27 NIV). Participating "in an unworthy manner" brings judgment (1Cor.11: 29-31), and none of us wishes to transgress this command. Therefore, we examine ourselves before participating, seeing how well we "measure up." If we feel spiritual enough, we may proceed; if we don't, better "safe than sorry."
     But is this really Paul's meaning? Was this Jesus' meaning? Consider Jesus' words in John 6:
      “Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him" (John 6: 53-56 NIV).” 
     Consider further the fact that Jesus' blood cleanses us from sin. When we are guilty, that is when we need Jesus the most. When we are struggling, that is when we need the help and support of the body. We need to be reminded that we are in a fellowship of brothers and sisters who represent Jesus to us, and we need the strength and assurance provided by the communion celebration. To shrink away from it is to retreat within ourselves and suffer silently.
     What, then, did Paul mean in 1 Corinthians? Consider the context. The Corinthian believers were abusing the Lord's Supper:
     “When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don't you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not! (1Cor.11:20-22 NIV).”
     The Corinthians' behavior contradicted the whole point of the communion experience. Rather than celebrating their unity, they were revealing their division. Hence Paul's question, "Do you despise the church of God?" They were eating and drinking "without recognizing the body of the Lord" (vs. 30), that is, the body of Christ of which they were part. As such, they were eating and drinking "in an unworthy manner" and bringing judgment on themselves. The "unworthy manner" relates to the way they abused the Lord's Supper. This observation is confirmed by verses 33 and 34: "So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment" (1Cor. 11:33-34 NIV).
     When we struggle with sin and find ourselves in need of forgiveness, let us remember our forgiveness and know that we can seek that forgiveness through the cleansing blood of Christ. "Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ?" (1 Cor. 10:16a NIV). Let us share the communion experience and the reassurance that we are part of God's people. "Is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?" (1 Cor. 10:16b NIV).
     This message is one of hope and comfort, but it is also one of warning. Paul directs our attention to the body and asks us to examine ourselves. Are we communing as a body? Right relationships within the body are essential. Jesus taught this aspect of church life (Matt. 5:23-24).
     Communion is not an individualistic matter; it is a body matter. We commune as a body; we come to the Lord's Table as a family. This truth is bound up in the biblical symbol of the one loaf and the one cup. "Because there is one loaf," Paul writes, "we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf" (1 Cor. 10:17 NIV).
     The next time you celebrate communion, take a look around the room and consider the brothers and sisters with whom we are communing. Evaluate your relationships with them. Do you despise the church of God? Consider how to put an end to unresolved conflicts. Do you recognize the body of the Lord? If so, commune with thanksgiving. Are you struggling with sin? Drink deeply of the cup of forgiveness, and thank God that Christ is coming soon to usher us in to the banquet hall where we shall celebrate with all the saints in the body.
     One Body!
               Pastor Dale



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