My dad knew the power of sharing a meal together. He enjoyed sitting around the dinner table as a family and especially with guests. Our guests would often hear him say, “Better have some more…” as soon as they finished the food on their plate. This would continue until everyone surrendered, and then there was always dessert. Meals were important to my dad, and he wanted to make sure that everyone had plenty. I remember when we first met my soon to be brother-in-law, Kalab. My dad’s radical hospitality mixed with Kalab’s desire to please meant that Kalab ate three steaks before the night was through and was then sick for the majority of the night. Six years after his passing, my dad’s hospitality, especially around the dinner table, is one of my favorite memories. And I remember him during just about every meal, especially Communion.
The Latin root of “Communion” is communis meaning, “to come together.” We receive Communion in community—with one another. As Christians, we gather in community because when we do, we encounter Christ in a very real way. Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name I am there.” Jesus said this because to experience community is to experience God. God’s very being even exists in community: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Not only do we share Communion with each other each week, but also with “all the company of heaven.” Each week during Communion the congregation prays, “By your Spirit make us one with Christ, one with each other…until Christ comes in final victory and we feast at his heavenly banquet.” Communion is an anticipation of the heavenly feast celebrating God’s victory over sin and death. We believe that when we receive Communion, we are not only eating with our brothers and sisters at Acts 2, but also our brothers and sisters around the world and with those who have gone to the Heaven ahead us. As someone who has someone in that Kingdom, I think that’s good news. In This Holy Mystery, the United Methodist statement on the practice and meaning of Holy Communion, we read, “We commune not only with the faithful who are physically present but with the saints of the past who join us in the sacrament.”
In this light, next time you come to the Communion table, I encourage you to try a few things to deepen your experience of Communion:
- Start by asking for forgiveness for the sins you’ve committed. An important aspect of Communion is being made right with God the Father through Jesus Christ. It’s hard to be in relationship with God or other people when we still haven’t turned from our old ways.
- Then, as you are waiting in line or after you’ve received Communion, pray for those who are currently receiving. Again, we share Communion in community, so it’s important to support one another as we come before the Lord.
- While you are receiving the elements, ask for the power of the Holy Spirit to empower you. Christ’s presence in this feast is real, so when we receive it we should expect to experience a transformation that only comes through the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Finally, thank God for those who have already passed on, and are currently sharing in that holy meal with Jesus Christ.
When I receive Communion, I thank Jesus for his sacrifice, ask for the power of the Holy Spirit, and I remember my dad and look forward to the time when we get to eat together again. I imagine at that meal when someone finishes their plate, my dad and Jesus are both going to say, “Better have some more…”