In the fall of 2016, I was at the Garden Tomb outside of Jerusalem. While there with a small group from my church, we took part in a short communion service. It was a simple observance: just a small piece of bread and juice from a small wooden cup, and a couple of hymns accompanied by guitar. It was memorable and beautiful. Yet what made it beautiful to me was not the place where it was happening, but the fact that this observance has been happening in various settings and among various peoples since the time of Christ. There was beauty in just contemplating the fact that Jesus suffered on our behalf and now is risen! There is a beautiful power and testimony in this observance. Since the days of the New Testament, believers have joined together to share in this beautiful observance. As we do so today, we continue to join with one another in unity and proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (I Corinthians 11:26).
Communion is at the very heart of what it means to be a believer, and communion services can be the most beautiful and important moments in the life of a church. It is difficult to find a moment in Scripture quite as powerful as the Last Supper, when Jesus shared the Passover with his disciples while bringing about its fulfillment.
The Passover meal is observed annually, and as the Jewish people progress through the meal they relive and remember the moment God delivered them from slavery. Many times throughout Scripture, God describes and defines himself as, “the God who led you out of slavery.” Yet this particular night something different happened. Jesus takes this familiar observance of freedom from physical slavery and redefines it to include freedom from spiritual slavery: a freedom that can only be found through him.
As a Church, our observance of communion is both a blessing and a Biblical mandate. As one of the two ordinances given by Jesus (the other being baptism) is it universally observed by every Christian denomination, although with variances. Whether our communion services are ornate or simple, traditional or modern, it is important that we make the most of this observance, and create a thoughtful, meaningful service that truly reveals the power and beauty of communion.
“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.” Luke 22:19
At the center of the service is the congregation partaking of the elements. As we take the bread, we remember the body of Christ that is broken for us. We remember the stripes that he took on our behalf, as he suffered under the lashes of soldiers. We remember his betrayal and crucifixion. We remember his death. There is nothing supernatural about the bread itself, but it is a strong reminder of who our savior is, and what he did for us. As we take the bread, we enter into a solemn moment as a congregation.
“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 22:20
We often sing that there is power in the blood, and that nothing but the blood can cleanse us of our sin. This truth is certainly worth singing! Beautiful songs are perfect for a communion service and point our hearts back to the one who gave all for us. As we drink the cup, we recall that aside from the blood of Christ we have no hope, no peace, no salvation. It is through his blood that we are truly made free and made whole.
Whether the elements are served at the beginning, middle or end of a communion service, these are the focus and the center of all this is done.
As we observe Communion together, we must spend time in prayer. Just as Jesus prayed on that night, so we should we. We acknowledge his grace and love in our lives, acknowledge his providence in the world to this day, and give him praise and thanks for who he is. We pray for those in our community who need to know him and pray that we may live in a way that is worthy of him. We pray that we never take our salvation or his sacrifice for granted, and we humbly confess our sinfulness and our need for his redemption.
As believers, we are part of something that is eternal. We are part of a story that God has been revealing piece by piece over time. Through communion, we are joining with Christ himself, with one another, with believers throughout the centuries, and believers yet to come after us. It is a beautiful moment that unites us as a bride of Christ.
I can recite Matthew 26:26-28 by heart because of how many times I have heard these words recited during communion services. As we observe communion, it is beneficial to remember the scriptural basis of exactly what it means and why we do it. Words of Scripture add so much to the meaning and importance of this observance, and there are so many beautiful passages that can be used.
Whether Scripture is read corporately, by an individual, or projected on a screen during the passing of the elements while music plays softly, Scripture draws into the very words of God, and fixes our attention on him.
Just as Jesus and his disciples sang a hymn at the end of their time together, it is only fitting that we do the same.
There are many beautiful songs that focus our hearts and minds on the meaning of communion. In my previous church, we often played instrumental music while the Church observed communion and closed the service with a song of praise. Music can be anything from a few instruments to a full-blown choral anthem. Every church is different and will have a different approach. Regardless of how your church chooses to do this, choosing the right music built around the communion theme is a powerful resource for drawing our hearts and minds into its beauty.
The communion service is a beautiful opportunity to reflect on the heart of our faith, the depth of our sin, and the sacrifice of Christ to atone for it. It is a unifying event for believers, and a wonderful testimony to seekers. As we celebrate communion, it is an intentional moment to focus our hearts and minds on Christ and his redeeming work in our lives.