This past weekend at Real Life | LA, we celebrated our third communion service as a new baby church. We’ve grown a lot over the past eight weeks of our church’s existence. God is at work in a powerful way, and we’ve witnessed quite a few miracles, healings, and magnificent expressions of God’s providence and grace. We come to Real Life from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. But if you’re like me, you may find it all a little overwhelming! Sometimes I even wonder, "is this new church really happening?!" I had the joyous privilege of presiding over communion last Sunday, and was struck by the emotion of the event. As I looked across the congregation, it hit me. As we gather around the communion table, we come from a variety of places and emotions. But one thing unites us: we’re all broken.
At Real Life | LA, we practice the sacrament of communion because we need to be reminded that “it’s not about us.” When we eat of the bread and drink from the cup, we are reminded of Jesus’ death and resurrection—and we even get to mysteriously share in His body and blood. We need His grace evermore, and we can’t do it alone. That’s why we share the Lord’s supper in community with others. But communion is so much more than some ritual we do once a month in church. Communion is actually practiced in real life.
The Swiss theologian John Calvin (1509-1564) followed St. Augustine in describing communion as “a visible sign of a sacred thing.” He believed that sacraments (communion and baptism) help us to grow deeper in our faith, and preach the Gospel. In other words, sacraments are outward signs of God’s seal and promise of grace and forgiveness on the inside. With that assurance, we gain the courage to go tell other people about the joy and hope God has given us. In fact, every time we think communion is a sad moment, we’re doing it wrong. It’s actually a joyous occasion because we are nourished physically by the bread/juice, and nourished spiritually through the remembrance of God’s grace and love (John 6:55-56).
Are you feeling overwhelmed? Are you feeling anxious? Are you scared, joyous, nervous, sad, happy, fearful? No matter where you are in life, the promises of the communion table are still the same. We are truly broken, and we need Jesus. Thankfully we follow a God who wants to enter into a relationship with us. He has a plan for our lives, and for our church (Jeremiah 29:11). Even when we don’t understand how or why.
I challenge you this week to reconsider how you view communion. May it never be something we “do” in church, but something we “are” in real life. Jesus Christ came to earth to do life with everyday people, even the worst of sinners - tax collectors, prostitutes, adulterers, and thieves. How much more, then, should we go into the world and be in relationship ("communion") with others?! According to Calvin, the Lord’s Supper is also “a bond of love” intended to demonstrate mutual love among believers to the world. It should inspire thanksgiving and gratitude. At Real Life | LA, communion is formally observed once a month as a congregation. But may we strive to do more! May we practice it every day as we preach the Gospel, do life together, and ultimately proclaim God’s truth and love to other’s around us. God calls us to proclaim Christ's saving grace to others until He comes again. And my friends, He is indeed coming again. So let's get to work. May we go forth into our world and commune with friends and strangers alike, at every moment, through Christ, and with joy.
Reference: John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 vols., ed. John T. McNeill, Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960 ).