When we read about Jesus in the gospels, we frequently find him at table with people – all kinds of people. Sometimes it’s the people we expect and sometimes he sits down with folks who make the usual spiritual types uncomfortable. Jesus sits down with a crowd on a hillside and a small group of close friends in an upper room. He makes breakfast on a beach one morning that surprises everyone and he starts a family dispute in the home of two sisters.
When Jesus isn’t sitting down and eating, he is often talking about eating. Gathering people from all directions at one big table is one of his favorite images of the kingdom of God. That is why we believe that the church can’t really be the church of Jesus without setting aside times when we gather around the Lord’s table and remember that he promised us he would be with us when we break bread and share the cup.
We celebrate communion on the first Sunday of every month and every Sunday in Lent. You can count on communion on those dates, but sometimes communion is just the right thing to do on a day that isn’t even a Sunday.
Communion means many things to different people and at First Church, folks come from a wide variety of faith background and from no faith background. There are probably as many opinions in the room when we celebrate communion as there are people. And that is OK. At First Church in Natick, the communion table is an open table. Everyone, regardless of age or stage or background or tradition, is invited to participate. We believe that children grow in their understanding of communion through experience. If we waited to understand what we are doing when we participate in this sacrament, no one would ever come to this table.
What we trust is that Jesus is with us when we break the bread and share the cup, and because the table he sets for us can transform us. There is healing in the sharing – and forgiveness and courage and peace and well, whatever it is that you are hungry for. Communion reminds us that God made not just our head and heart, but our whole body because in this sacrament we experience the holy though all of our senses.
In our tradition, communion is often understood as:
- An act of joyful thanksgiving to God for everything God is and was and will be. “Eucharist” which is another word for communion means “thanksgiving;”
- A remembrance of that Last Passover that Jesus celebrated with his friends on the night before he died and his promise to be with them whatever came;
- A prayer that the Spirit will overcome all divisions and unite us with those in every time who have gathered at Christ’s table;
- A “appetizer” of that great banquet that is the kingdom of God of marked by justice, love and peace.
We serve communion in different ways. Usually in the sanctuary, the servers pass plates of bread and trays of juice to everyone in the pews. We wait until everyone is served and then we all eat and drink together as a sign of our unity in Christ. Sometimes though, we invite anyone who is able to come forward to the table to take the bread and dip it into the cup as a way of responding to the great invitation to abundant life that Christ offers each of us. And other times, we gather in a circle and pass around the bread and cup. But every time when we gather at Christ’s table, we have available gluten-free bread and grape juice in addition to bread and wine, so that everyone can be included.