Communion – What’s it for?

From the Resurgence – Jonathan Dodson (Lead Pastor, Austin City Life Church, USA)

The Lord’s Supper as Missional Community

I’d like to lay out the ingredients of the communion meal instituted by Jesus and observed by the church for twenty centuries. In laying them out, inspect yourself and your own diet. Are you keeping all three ingredients together in your communion with God?

The ingredients

We observe these elements in Matthew 26, where Jesus had his “last supper” with the twelve disciples. The gospel ingredient is present in Jesus’ description of the bread and the wine, symbolizing his body and blood given for us. He would be betrayed and abandoned by men at that table, men just like us. The gospel ingredient reminds us we are worse sinners than we dare admit, but in Christ’s body and blood, more forgiven and loved than we could ever fathom.

The community ingredient is when Jesus shares this first communion meal with his community of twelve—twelve persons in community, not twelve individuals. He emphasizes the community by asking them “all” to drink of the cup. They didn’t drink as individuals, but as a new covenant community in his blood (1 Corinthians 11).

He died to rescue us from our destructive diet and to satisfy us with the better meal of his Son & Spirit.

Finally, there is the mission ingredient, which is more difficult to discern, but certainly present. Jesus tells the twelve that after that night he will no longer drink the “fruit of the vine” (wine) because he will wait “until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” The mission ingredient of communion is present in the promise of “new wine.” Jesus will bring the new after the mission is complete. Jesus intimates mission by setting a vision of the future.

Repenting over missing ingredients

In 1 Corinthians, the church is eating the Lord’s Supper with missing ingredients. They get drunk on the wine and eat without waiting for one another. The gospel ingredient is missing because the body and blood have been reduced to fast food and public intoxication (1 Corinthians 11:20).

The community ingredient is missing because they eat as unreconciled individuals, not as a reconciled community. Mission is absent because the gospel and community are absent. They are not “proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes” but proclaiming themselves, their own wants, greed, and comfort.

When we inspect our own diet, are we missing ingredients in our observance of the Communion Meal?

Areas to examine

Perhaps you’re so busy living for and feeding yourself, you aren’t taking time to love and feed others. Are you investing in others in your church, small group, or missional community? Not just by showing up to a meeting, but by immersing yourself into their interests, sufferings, and joys?

Maybe you’re feasting on comfort so much you are neglecting mission. You use your money and time for your own comfort, but not for Christ’s mission. You’re fat on self-indulgence while people starve for Christ in this city.

In 1 Corinthians 11:28 Paul says, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” Examine and inspect where you are missing ingredients; where you need to confess sin, repent, receive forgiveness, and change.

The Gospel keeps all ingredients together

As you reflect on your poor diet, there is hope of a better diet; a well-balanced meal that comes, not through self-correction, but through gospel repentance.

Come to the bread and wine, the body which is “for you.” He died to rescue us from our destructive diet and to satisfy us with the better meal of his Son & Spirit. He has forgiven us for starving his church of community and starving his city of his mission (Matthew 26:28).

A balanced diet

When we feast on Christ, his body and blood, the rest of the ingredients fall together. We will feed one another and our city generously from our bounty in Christ with our money, time, gifts, and love. So come in repentance and come to celebrate! Let’s rejoice in Christ’s body and blood, our common rescue and forgiveness; our common gospel, community, and mission!

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