Our Sunday church service is centered around Holy Communion. As outlined in the Book of Common Prayer, we hear the Word of God (readings from the Bible), listen to a sermon, affirm our faith by reciting the Nicene Creed, offer Prayers of the People, confess our sins, and exchange “the peace,” all to prepare for Holy Communion.
The Communion prayers lead us through the events of the Last Supper:
On the night he was handed over to suffering and death, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks to you, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”
After supper he took the cup of wine; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.”
As we say in the Rite II service, “[we]e celebrate the memorial of our redemption,” by offering the Communion bread and wine as a “sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Recalling his death, resurrection, and ascension.” After receiving the bread and wine, we give thanks to God, and pray for “strength and courage to love and serve [God] with gladness and singleness of heart.”
On the whole, the Holy Communion service focuses on Jesus as our Savior and Redeemer
–we confess our sins, ask for forgiveness, and remember the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made for us by dying on the cross.
A few weeks ago, my priest invited us to look at the Gospel in a different light. Instead of focusing on the message of Jesus as our Redeemer, he asked us to think of the message of Jesus as Immanuel—God with us. Instead of thinking of the “good news” of the Bible as being that Jesus paid for our sins so that we may one day enjoy eternal life, he invited us to think of the “good news” as being that God is with us, here and now.
That got me thinking about Holy Communion in a new light. Instead of approaching it as a memorial of the Last Supper, what if I approached it as a Sunday supper?
I started imagining a family holiday gathering. We tell stories. We talk about our accomplishments, shortcomings and fears. We gather around the table and share a meal. We leave feeling like we have strengthened our family bonds, with new memories and experiences to carry us through the days ahead.
Wouldn’t that be a great way to celebrate being in communion with Jesus?
Do you have a family dinner tradition?