Just 20 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection St Paul, writing to Corinthian Christians, tells how ‘on the night when he (Jesus) was betrayed, he took bread, gave thanks, broke and shared it saying ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ (1 Corinthians 11: 24). Two thousand years later Christians still break bread together, regularly repeating these words as they do. In the years that followed Paul, the gospel writers Matthew, Mark and Luke all include similar detail in their accounts of the Last Supper. While Luke also tells us that, following the events of Pentecost, the first converts devoted themselves to ‘the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking bread and prayer.’ (Acts 2:42). This communal act of breaking bread and sharing a common cup take us back to the earliest of Jesus’ followers. It is the ancestry of our act of Holy Communion.
Precisely how these early followers of Jesus understood this breaking and sharing and how they interpreted ‘This is my body’ is far from clear. Some things, however, are clear. As the name ‘Communion’ suggests, this is a communal act; I can pray alone, I need another with whom to share communion. It is also clear that, from the earliest of times, this is an act of affirmation. As St Paul also writes ‘as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes’. (1 Corinthians 11:26).
‘We are the body of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 12:27). Our act of communion is not just one of sharing with each other, but also an act of entering into communion with Christ. This act of sharing bread and (when Covid constraints permit) a common cup, is a gift of God; Christ giving himself to us, so that, sharing in his death, we can also share in his resurrection. (eg: 2 Timothy 2:11). In coming together in this way, we allow Christ to feed ourselves and we minister Christ to each other. With the easing of pandemic constraints, we are once more able to meet in person and share the presence of Christ in this way, together. If you are unable to travel and would welcome Communion at home, please contact either Rev Helen or myself.
Rev Philip Payne
The Notice Sheet for 4 July 2021 can be found here