Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Finally, the Communion Metaphor Makes Sense!

**Disclaimer (04/16/18) - further study of the Lord's Supper has shown me that I was off the mark with this post.  It's not good to say that a passage of the Bible means something different than the author intended.  I will leave this post up because I believe that it may be helpful to some people, but please read my new thoughts afterwards.**

Perhaps I am incredibly slow in my understanding, but I finally came to a new realization about Communion after taking it for about a couple decades.
            There are so many things about Christianity that makes sense:  loving and forgiving others, just as God forgave us; becoming baptized, a physical display representing the spiritual change we have gone through when we become Christians – death of our old selves and rebirth into Christ, as well as becoming fully cleansed from our past sins; giving offerings of praise and of our finances.  However, to me, Communion was the strange tradition that I took part in anyway.
             I thought that I understood Communion.  I believed I understood what it was supposed to mean to me, but I didn’t fully understand the metaphor.  It makes sense that Jesus would want us to remember what he did to us, for us to remember his body broken for us and his blood shed for us.  But why did he need to make the comparison from food to that?  Why couldn’t it have been just a lighting of a candle or even a folding of our hands?
             This past Sunday, as I followed most of the church to the front to receive whatever form of juice and bread that were being served as communion, I had the faintest thought of “and here’s the awkward, cultish part of my religion that it makes sense that others would be weirded out over.”
              It wasn’t until yesterday during Bible study that things clicked in my brain.  I was prompted to think about Communion in the light of the sacrifices of the Old Testament.  I remembered that before Jesus came, the law dictated that the Jews make physical sacrifices to atone for their sins.  But then I remembered what happened to the offerings in the Old Testament (specifically the sin offering mentioned in Leviticus 6:24-30):  it was eaten by the priests.
              I should have realized it earlier, as Jesus has commonly been referred to as the perfect sacrifice, and as the “Lamb” of God.  Only now, however, do I realized Jesus needed to make the connection between his body and food.  No other metaphor would have had the same meaning, it had to be that one.
                    I suppose this would be a good time to mention that I am referring to Communion as a metaphor on purpose.  I do not hold to the belief, as some do, that after eating Communion the involved bread/wine/etc. undergoes some sort of change to be the literal (*shudder* gross) body and blood of Christ.  I could go on to support that view biblically, but I’d much rather move on to making my main points: 
             When we eat Communion, we are behaving as priests did.  That is because we, as Christians (and now it makes more sense why one shouldn’t take Communion unless one really is a Christian), are now the new priests (1 Peter 2:9). 
  1. It makes more sense why we should examine ourselves before eating The Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:28).  It isn’t just because it’s good for us to have respect before coming into the presence of a Holy and perfect God, and so we must repent of our sinful nature before doing so.  It’s also because it’s a representation of the purification priests of the Old Testament needed to go through before serving in the sacred parts of the tabernacle/temple. 
  2. The Levites (the tribe of Israel set apart to be priests) were to live off the food offerings to the Lord (Deuteronomy 18:1).  Their sustainment wasn’t in the traditional sense of owning and working land.  They were provided for through the worship of God.  People gave offerings to God, who in turn allowed the Levites to be sustained through those resources.  Our attitude should one be of realization that our sustenance isn’t by our own power, but through the gracious provision of God.  Why don’t we, when we take Communion, not only thank Jesus for what He did to provide our salvation, but also thank him for being our sustenance:  the thing that keeps us going. 
  3. Since we are priests, we have a mission.  That mission, our very purpose, is to facilitate the worship of God.  We are to point to the sacrifice God made through Jesus. 
  4. I know that there are very good reasons why Communion is done almost exclusively in a church setting.  That is the best way to interpret what is meant by the Lord’s Supper as described in 1 Corinthians 11.  However, I still think it would be a healthy habit of getting into before meals on a regular basis, to turn aside from any sins we have turned to, thank Jesus for what He has done for us, for giving us salvation and being our sustenance, recognize that He is the reason for our existence and the One who gives us our purpose.

1 Corinthians 23-26 - For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

**Edit, the way I see Communion as of 04/16/18 ...
When Jesus spoke the words written in the passage above, he was celebrating the Passover with the disciples.  Passover was commanded by God in order for the Israelites to remember what God did for them in bringing them out of Egypt (Exodus 12).  The reason it was called Passover was because a lamb was slain and the blood was put over the doors of the Israelites so that when God went out to kill the firstborns of all the households in Egypt during the 10th plague, he would "pass over" with the households with the blood on the doors.

It seems kind of violent with all the blood and death in the Bible here, but remember, we offend God with our sin, and we deserve death.  We needed to know just how greatly we offended God.  He loves us, so he provided a way for us to pay for our debt of sin without us needing to die.  In the Old Testament, God accepted the death of certain animals as a temporary way to pay back for our sins.

When Jesus was having the Passover with the disciples, he was declaring himself as the sacrificial lamb that could cover our sins completely.  No more do we need to make sacrifices, but trust in the sacrifice of Jesus as he gave himself on the cross.

That being said, much of the practical application I have already mentioned in my original post I believe can still apply.  Jesus didn't specify how often or when or where to partake of "the Lord's Supper."  I do not think it would be wrong for us to remember what Jesus has done for us as we eat each and every meal.  I do, however, see the benefit of treating it with ceremony and eating it with a group of believers on special occasions as a helpful way to get us in a reverent frame of mind.

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