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What is The Gathering? Part V: Why We Receive Communion Every Week

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Lance Marshall3As I mentioned on Sunday, the New Testament regularly employs the metaphor of “the body” to describe the community of people united by their commitment to Christ. It is vital that each of us comes to understand this image and live into it, to understand ourselves and each other through this concept of connection, purpose, and unity as parts of the body. Thinking in this way helps us understand why the sacrament of Communion is the vital, climactic conclusion of each Gathering worship service.

There are two sacraments in our church: baptism, which is a one-time only event that initiates a Christian into the body of Christ; and Communion, the regular, ongoing sacrament that draws the body together into a deeper relationship with Christ. Our theological reflection on Communion is much too rich to fit into a letter as short as this. I recommend you read This Holy Mystery if you want a deeper understanding of the practice and what it means. Instead of focusing on the theology of Communion, I want to focus on its practice, and why I think it is so vital that The Gathering observes Communion every time we come together as the church.

I had two groups of people in mind when I decided that we would receive Communion at every Gathering. The first group is those who actively live as disciples of Christ, the people who say yes to God’s offer of grace and seek to grow in their connection to the Holy Spirit. For these people, Communion is the highest act of worship, the action that provides the regular foundation for their lives of worship, learning, giving, serving, praying, and playing. I knew that act needed to be as steady and regular as possible, a firm foundation onto which our relationship with God can be built.

The second group I thought of is very different. These are the people who are just kicking the tires on the whole “faith” thing. These are the people who may have been dragged to church by a loved one, who are first-timers in a service of worship, or who are returning to church with a lot of accumulated hurts and baggage. Our Methodist theology proclaims that the Communion table is not our table, it is Christ’s table, open to all people who desire an encounter with the living Son of God. God’s grace is present and active in the Communion table, and nobody needs that grace more than the people who are yet to encounter and accept it. So, with those people in mind, we offer Communion at every Gathering, knowing that each week there will be a person who is approaching the table for the first time. We know that they need Christ, and so we open Christ’s table to them. Every. Single. Time.

Lance

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