Communion has always held a special place in my heart. That is because it was during communion one Sunday night about 33 years ago at Huffman Assembly of God that I gave my heart to the Lord. And although I was only 5 years old when this holy moment took place, I knew that decision would be the most important one I would ever make.
Communion was always random in the Assembly of God church. Well, at least at the one I grew up attending. You never knew when communion would be served, so it was always a surprise when you went to church and saw the brass communion plates on the altar. It was usually on Sunday mornings, but on this very special evening, Bro. Dan Ronsisvalle decided to mix it up and serve communion during the Sunday night worship service. Also, communion was always served to us at our pews. The ushers would serve us the elements, which consisted of a communion wafer – sometimes called a communion chiclet 🙂 – and a tiny cup of grape juice. And children were not allowed to partake in communion until around the age of 9 to make sure they understood the gravity of what they were fixing to do. But if parents wanted their children to have communion, they had to share their elements, and that is what my parents did every time we had communion.
However, on this very special night, Bro. Dan called families up to the altar to pray and take communion together. So my parents grabbed my hand and we went up to the altar. My sister Bekah was in the nursery, so it was just me, mom, and dad. While we were there at the altar, dad divided his communion elements with me. Then Bro. Dan said the most amazing thing to the congregation. He said that if anyone wanted to ask Jesus into their hearts, this was the perfect time. Well, that idea sounded glorious to me! Did I want Jesus, this wonderful man I had heard so much about, to live inside my heart? Of course! And even though I may not have understood the fullness of what all that truly meant, I did know this: If Jesus was in my heart, then I would never be alone. And that was enough for me.
I repeated the prayer of salvation after Bro. Dan that night, and God and I have been tight ever since! And it all happened over the broken bread and wine of communion, of which I am forever grateful.
These days, it has become popular for companies and even churches to have a ‘word of the year’. It helps give purpose to your business, organization, or church for the next 12 months. I’ve heard different words like ‘Simplify’ and ‘Connect’ be used in the past. Our church, GracePoint at Mt. Olive, has a word for 2015. It is FIRST – about making God first in every part of our individual lives and our corporate life as a church.
So on New Year’s Eve, as I was writing in my prayer journal, I started pondering this whole ‘word of the year’ thing, and wondered what my ‘word’ should be. And before I could ever finish writing the sentence, I heard God say, “Communion”. That is what my word of the year should be. I was amazed at how quickly God spoke to my spirit. But I did question it a little bit. What exactly did that mean? Make sure I didn’t miss any communion services this year? Make sure I spent time having my quiet time with Him daily? And then I felt Him clarify by saying, “Focus on communing with me and communing with others.”
I decided to look up the word ‘communion’ in the dictionary to make sure I truly knew what the word meant. Although I have said and read the word ‘communion’ thousands of times, did I truly have a grasp on what it was? According to Merriam-Webster, communion means the following:
1 – an act or instance of sharing
2 – a Christian sacrament in which consecrated bread and wine are consumed as memorials of Christ’s death, or as symbols for the realization of spiritual union between Christ and communicant, or as the body and blood of Christ.
3 – intimate fellowship or rapport
4 – body of Christians having a common faith and discipline
Sacrament? Once again, a word I have heard many times in the Methodist church, but never in the A/G church. So once more, I go back to the old faithful dictionary:
– a Christian rite (as baptism or Holy Communion) that is believed to have been ordained by Christ and that is held to be a means of divine grace or to be a sign or symbol of a spiritual reality
So communion is a rite, a ritual, a ceremony, that Jesus established at the Last Supper the night He was arrested, and something we continue to practice in remembrance of Him, just as He told the disciples 2000 years ago. But it’s also intimate fellowship. The act of communion means absolutely nothing if the fellowship isn’t there. It becomes an empty, repetitious process that we act out as robots if we don’t recognize that God Almighty created us for relationship… for communion.
Communion is more than a rite, a ritual, a routine.
Communion is more than a sign, a symbol, a sacrament.
Communion is constant connection between the Creator and His creation.
For 2015, God wants me to focus on intimate fellowship with Him. Sharing every moment with Him. Communing with Him. Being deliberate in staying constantly connected to Him. But also having fellowship with others. Communing with other believers in an effort to help encourage their faith or even with unbelievers by sharing God’s unending love for them. Communion.
Ever noticed that once you decide to buy a certain car, you see them everywhere? That’s how I feel about this word ‘communion’! I feel like I keep seeing it everywhere! Either in books I’m reading, stories I’m hearing, or even events I’m participating in. It’s like God confirms this word in my life on a daily basis.
Many times throughout this blog, I’ve compared the ways the Methodist church does things to the way the A/G does things (how I grew up). And I’ll be honest, I struggle with some aspects of the Methodist ‘method’ of worship. I’m a passionate, demonstrative worshipper, and I have a hard time swallowing the strict order of worship, the liturgy, the acolytes, the somberness… But one thing that I truly love more in the Methodist church than the A/G church is the way they ‘do’ communion.
I remember the first communion I participated in when Scott took a position as youth pastor at a local Methodist church. It was at Taylor Memorial UMC in Clay, AL. I saw the elements on the altar, so I assumed I would be served at my pew seat. But at the end of the worship service, the pastor read this long passage out of the hymnal called the Great Thanksgiving. Although I am not normally a fan of all the scripted stuff that I hear in liturgical churches, I really liked this. And then the pastor proceeded in telling us the process of how communion would be administered. Everyone would come to the altar by row, and someone would serve us communion at the altar. So of course, I loved it right then! Communion at the altar is how my faith journey began, so I was thrilled to worship the Lord again in that same way.
Another thing the pastor said was that this was the Lord’s Table, and that communion was open to all. All ages, all denominations, all people. Of course I loved that as well. I always hated that I couldn’t partake in communion when I was a child, just because I wasn’t old enough. I am sure some children weren’t mature enough to fully understand what they were doing, but I was! And even if a child didn’t understand, did it really matter? If this truly is the Lord’s Table, I’m fairly positive that Jesus would have offered communion supper to children too. He said to let the little children draw near to Him – that the Kingdom of Heaven belonged to children such as these! I just can’t imagine Him turning any child away.
I also loved the reverence I felt in that place as people were taking their turns at the altar. And yes, this girl, who loves contemporary worship, passionate singing, and less structured services, still appreciates reverence. Contemporary worship does not mean lack of reverence. God is God. And He should always be acknowledged and treated as such. Scripture tells us that there is a time to be still and be sober in His presence. By having everyone go to the altar, partaking together, and then having a blessing spoken over them, it just made the moment very sacred to me. I loved it.
And lastly, I loved the fact that it wasn’t just the pastor who served communion. But the pastor chose lay people, just everyday regular church folk, to help him. 2 people worked each side of the altar, serving bread and juice to everyone. It reminded me that we are all called to serve/submit to one another like Paul wrote about in Ephesians 5:21:
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
For my second communion in the Methodist church, I was actually asked to serve communion. Me, one of those everyday regular church folk, was given the opportunity to serve. I have to say, it was one of the most humbling things I have ever been asked to do. For me, an unworthy human, to be given the opportunity to take this bread as a symbol of Christ’s broken body, and break it off and give a piece to others just like myself as a reminder of God’s great love towards us is unbelievably humbling. There is no other way to describe it other than humbling. I’ve been honored to be able to do it many more times since we’ve been in the Methodist church. I was actually blessed to be able to serve again this past Sunday. My favorite time to serve is when I get to serve next to Scott. I feel like it is such a visual representation and reminder of what God has called us to do as a couple – to serve others out of response to His love for us. Every time I get to serve with him, I feel as though I am right where I am supposed to be doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing… It makes me fall more in love with Scott and makes me fall even more in love with God.
When serving communion, you get to witness some of the greatest moments, especially serving children. I remember one time, a boy named Ben who was Elsie’s age took his tiny wafer and cup of juice and said, “Mmmmm, Jesus is good! And I’m hungry!” What a profound theological statement that is! Then last month, one Sunday that we were not having communion, a little girl named Kinley asked our children’s director if we were ‘having the bread’ that morning. Mrs. Beth told her no, but we would again soon. She asked with wide eyes and great anticipation, “Are we having it next week?” Beth said she was super eager to have some of that Jesus bread 🙂 And lastly, one of the last times I served, my friend brought her little twin toddlers up for communion. I knelt down, handed the little boy Charlie his piece of bread, and he took it in his hand. But little Kalee didn’t want it in her hand. She just opened her mouth up for me to put it in her mouth like a little bird! It was so precious.
All three of those stories taught me something different. First, Jesus is so good! Scripture tells us in Psalm 34:8 to ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good.” And we should always be hungry for more of Him. Second, we should look forward with great expectation any chance we get to commune with God. Whether it’s the actual monthly communion service at your church or just your daily communion with God, be excited to spend time with Him. And finally, take your guard down. Just like sweet baby Kalee. She had no fear, no doubt, no hesitation. She opened her mouth, made herself absolutely vulnerable, and let me place that bread in her mouth. We should open our hearts, make ourselves absolutely vulnerable, and let God place His love, His spirit, His joy, His peace in our hearts. Thank you, children, for teaching this old lady about communing with God. Just like Scripture says, ‘And a child shall lead them’ (Isaiah 11:6)
With those three spiritual lessons these precious kiddos taught me, I will pursue a year of communion with God. I will focus on how good my God is and hunger for more of Him. I will look with great expectation any time I get to spend with Him. And I will come with an open heart, with absolute vulnerability, ready for whatever God sends my way. And I have a feeling that ‘Communion’ won’t just be my word for 2015, but for a lifetime 🙂