Communion Feasting: Strong Bread and Strong Wine

[Our church served communion this weekend, so I thought this 2014 post was appropriate.]

The communion bread I picked up from the tray was about a tenth the size of my thumbnail, like all the other uniform pieces laying there. The tiny plastic cup I removed from the same tray had a tiny bit of grape juice in it, and if anyone had called it a sip-worth they would have been overstating the case.

So different from my early days as a Christian.

Beginning with Strong Bread and Strong Wine

I became a Christian while at Sussex University in England and started attending the campus chapel on Sunday mornings. The gathering was small, and every Sunday they’d invite us to the front to stand in a circle around the communion table to partake together. We’d pass a loaf of bread and tear off chunks, saying to one another, “This is the body of Christ, broken for you.”

Then came the cup. It was a common cup, a chalice really. And it was filled with a very nice port.

Have you ever tried port? It’s awesome. When we passed the cup around and said, “This is the blood of Christ, shed for you,” the only thing that kept me from taking a second – and perhaps third – quaff from that cup was the solemnity of the communion service itself.

But nobody took tiny little sips like you get in those plastic communion cups at a lot of churches. Everyone drank deep, taking a mouthful of good wine to wash down the wonderful bread we’d just shared.

God Is No Skimpy Miser

I’m not going to address the issue of wine or grape juice, although that is a worthy subject of discussion.

Instead, I wonder about the symbolism in our communion services when those symbols are reduced (literally) to a tiny plastic cup and an even tinier crust of stale bread. It just doesn’t square up with the gospel accounts of the first communion, nor of the type of feast Christ invites us to share with him in his kingdom. For example:

  • God prepares a table for us in his own house. (Psalm 23:5-6.)
  • He leads us to his banquet hall. (Song of Songs 2:4.)
  • We are to feast at the wedding supper of the Lamb. (Revelation 19:6-9.)

In looking at the Last Supper/First Communion passages and with these other passages to guide us, what do our present symbols used in communion depict? That our God is a skimpy miser who sets a meager table for his people?

I hope that the practice in God’s fellowships and congregations will point people to the abundance we find in Jesus because of his sacrifice for us. Communion is solemn, yes, but it is also a celebration. It is about deliverance and freedom. Jesus himself instituted it all at the great supper of Passover, a celebration of God redeeming his people from the oppressors. It’s a supper full of symbolism, symbols of hearty eating in preparation of traveling with God wherever he leads.

Is this your idea of a feast?

Bread crumbs and a thimble-full of grape juice just don’t seem to say the same thing. God wants us to eat heartily in him. Communion should reflect this.

That’s more like it

Let’s break bread together, share the cup, and celebrate communion with our Savior and one another.

***

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11 Responses to Communion Feasting: Strong Bread and Strong Wine

  1. Donna says:

    Good point, hadn’t really thought about it as you wrote in this post. I think it’s especially true when looking at comparisons of where the focus is at in some churches. In some churches one immediately knows where all the money is really going too, pastor’s expensive suits, finest cars, rich plush carpet, granite bathroom sink counters, mahogany wood cadenza/desk in the pastor’s office…ect. Don’t get me wrong not saying a pastor shouldn’t have a suit to wear, or a car nor am I saying a church shouldn’t have carpet or bathroom counters or a desk for the pastor but the church building and it’s inside things aren’t there to be a “show off” or competition to others entering the church. It’s sad when churches choose to be more focused on showing off worldly luxury – which are only temporary and skimping on the Communion elements, than instead of focusing more on Christ’s communion feast which has far more eternal weight and value than all the luxury in the world.

  2. I know what you mean, Tim. In most of the communion services in our church, we have the tiny cups and cracker pieces. Last week our church and 2 other churches had our morning service in the park, and when it was time for communion we could line up at one of several stations (it reminded me of my Anglican days). We tore a chunk off the loaf of bread and dipped it in the cup. It was soggy and drippy and somehow seemed so much more REAL than the more antiseptic format we are used to. But it still wasn’t exactly abundant. I suppose the BBQ we had afterward, with hot dogs and hamburgers and salads, symbolized that abundance better!

  3. Pingback: Communion Feasting: Strong Bread and Strong Wine — Tim’s Blog @tim_fall – Just One Train Wreck After Another | Talmidimblogging

  4. Muff Potter says:

    Again Tim, good stuff. I doubt very seriously that the Passover Seder set out for our Lord in the upper room was done on the cheap.

  5. George says:

    Personally, I think it’s more important to discern the nature of body of Christ then the size of bread and wine served, assuming you will be drinking from it. A wafer that just fit on your tongue can be made to feel Christ fully, while a soft spongy bread soaked in wine may feel just exactly what it is.

    • Tim says:

      Right. The Bread and Wine of communion remind me of Jesus’ statement that we live on more than just bread alone. The communion elements are more than just bread and wine.

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