The Cost of Communion

Over the last two weeks I have been traveling a great deal.  Last week was spent in Calgary at Renov8, the Canadian Church Planting Congress (more on that soon), with the week prior to that in Vancouver the YWAM Western Canada Leadership Team meetings.  Both weeks were spent deeply engaged in the questions of mission, community, leadership and direction.  As I began to prepare for worship with Little Flowers Community these dynamics were at work.  Putting aside my original plans, instead I wrote down a series of questions that we explored together as we journeyed towards the Table of Communion.  It was very dialogical, so the following is my attempt to share a small part of what went on.

What kind of God is our God?

Compassionate.  Just.  Loving.  These are just a few of the words that came to our minds as we considered this question.  It is not too difficult to throw together such a list, especially for those of us who grew up in Christian contexts.  However, as we listed these characteristics off, we were naturally led to the next question:

What do these things mean in a world that is so often unlike God?

Immediately we began to see that all too often, as we describe characteristics of God, we do so as though they are static descriptions.  However, we confronted with a world that is often unlike God, we began to see that these characteristics only have meaning insofar as they are actively engaged to transform the world.  By His very nature, from the very dawn of Creation through to the end of known revelation, God is actively at work, moving out into the world with the redemptive power of His nature.

If this is the nature of the God in whose image we are created, what does that mean for us?

As we look to the story of the Garden, we see that God created humanity in the wider context of Creation, in perfect relationship to Him, to each others, within ourselves and with all He created.  That relational unity expressed through diversity- the unhindered intimacy with the Divine, the generative love we share with each other, the un-self-consciousness of our individuality and our interdependent place within the created world- was formed in the image of the perfect unity of God in Father, Son & Spirit.  But sin marred that image, resulting in every facet of that unity damaged.  We hid from God, each other and even our own nakedness.  Even the earth seemed to turn against us.

How are we restored to that intended image of God?

Through Jesus, who in the incarnation entered into our brokenness, invited us to share in His.  Through the death of broken selves and into the resurrection of His Body, we are remade in the image if Christ.  The way to restoration is on and through the Cross of Christ.  The grave of our old selves is not optional.  Being reborn into Christ, no longer our own but entirely and indivisibly His, is not the saintly act of the exceptional Christian.  No, these are the essential and exclusive realities of our salvation.

We also realized that, as Scripture teaches, there is one faith, one baptism, one Lord.  There is but one salvation.  While we choose to enter into the saving work of Christ as individuals, it is together we are reborn, resurrected as One Body.  Just as our salvation is bound up together, so to is our new life as His Body.  Your choices are no longer your own, but touch every one of us in that Body.  And that Body is not yours to do with as you please, but is called to be the submitted member under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  After all, it is His Body to do with as He chooses.

What would Jesus choose to do with His Body today?

If we truly believe that our salvation is dependent on dying with Him on the Cross and resurrecting as His Body, and if we truly believe that we are His Body and submitted to His Lordship, then this question has staggering implications.  Looking at His life, his words and deeds, we see that He, in the incarnation of humanity, perfectly reflects the active nature of God we explored earlier.  And therefore, as His Body, restored to His image, submitted to His Lordship, that is the nature we (collectively & communally) must actively embody too.

What does this say about Communion?

Communion reflects both the commonality of our identity in Christ and the means through which that unity is achieved.  This sharing in common, even as it points to the brokenness of Christ on the Cross, also connects to each point of disintegrative brokenness that sin produced.  By consuming the Body and Blood of Christ, we are embrace our identity within Christ.  By sharing with our sisters and brothers, we die to that which divides us and are reunited as One in Him.  By taking up this Cross, we stand expose in the nakedness of our sin transformed even as individuals.  Even Creation, whose fruits produced the wheat and grape by which we celebrate this sacrament, participates in the work of God.

Participating in Communion is a public and communal declaration that we are taking on the image of Christ found only through the Cross.  Participating in Communion is a public renewal of our Covenant with God and with each other, where any blessing we received is for the blessing of the nations.  Participating in Communion is a sacred and binding rite in which we release all we are and all we have and all we want, taking on instead the mind and nature of Christ.  We recognize that this means a constant and absolute submission of our whole selves to become like Him, actively in heart, mind and body.

This is the heavy cost of Communion.  And so we do not approach the table lightly.  We believe that Little Flowers Community is being called more intentionality in embracing His restored image in and through us.  It is both exciting and terrifying.  It was in this spirit that we entered, some literally trembling, to the sacrament.

When we had finished, we stood together and raised our Communion glasses.  For while the broken bread and pour juice remind us of the heavy cost of following Christ, we also know that this brokenness does not defeat us, but is itself defeated along with death.  And so we raised our cups in the celebratory conviction that resurrection life one of hope, peace and joy.

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