Editorial: Mindful issue 2 - Holy Communion

Sarah Barnett

14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfilment in the kingdom of God.”
17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. Luke 22: 14-20

While its significance may be lost on modern westerners, the breaking of bread with another person is a significant event with a long history. Our word "companion' means one with whom bread is shared. In ancient cultures " Jewish, Pagan and Christian " sharing a meal and breaking bread was an indication of a cultural connection. It was a form of fellowship.

It mattered whom one ate with. If the fellowship was fractured or if central beliefs and culture were not shared then, for many ancients, partaking of a meal together was impossible.

The Lord's Supper, also known as Holy Communion or the Eucharist, is an occasion of fellowship. It speaks of our communion with each other but also our relationship with the Lord. Participating in this meal shouldn't be done flippantly or without reflection. Nor are the unrepentant invited to share in it. While its remembrance evokes our forgiveness and new standing before God, it is hardly a moment of festivity or merriment. What we remember and remind each other of is the price of our sin and the extent of God's love for us. We remember a violent death. An act of sacrifice.
My earliest memory of the Lord's Supper was as a child. My father was the Master of a university college and we lived in fairly close quarters with the students. My parents had started a new church that met in our lounge room. Most of those gathered were university students who sat in a circle which seemed to grow larger with each passing week. I can't remember whether Communion was wine or grape juice (our residence, like the college, was alcohol-free.) But the bread was always a loaf that had to be broken. No neat cubes of Tip Top for this gathering. The bread and the wine were passed from person to person. The one passing the elements would say something like, "Remember Jesus' body was broken for you", and "Remember Jesus' blood was shed for you". A time came when the size of the church meant this was no longer workable, however I remember it as a meaningful way of sharing as believers and being accountable to each other.

One of the first times I took Communion was at a wedding in the country. It was, I learned later, an Anglo-Catholic church. Serious robes. Incense. Wafers. And a very bejewelled common cup. It was a strange experience. It was particularly odd when I entered into something of a wrestling match with the priest presiding. I wanted to hold the cup when I had my sip. So did he. He won.

Sharing the Lord's Supper with each other is an indication of what we believe. It's a fundamental part of Christian expression that has united and divided believers over the centuries. Matters relating to Communion are guaranteed to stir emotions and split opinion.

This is our first edition of mindful on the new sydneyanglicans.net site. I hope you enjoy it.