When you visit a church for the first time, you may be surprised by some of the things we do. But what you’ll find is there are certain things that EVERY church does, that are universal to the Church across the world. Communion, singing, teaching, reading the Bible, prayer…
Communion is also called The Lord’s supper, the breaking of bread, the eucharist, or in the Roman Catholic tradition, mass.
It was instituted by Jesus in the context of the Jewish Passover meal, on the night in which he was betrayed to be sentenced to death.
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the [new] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” – Matt 26:26-29
The primary verses from the Bible regarding communion and the direction for believers to do it: Matt 26:26–29; Mark 14:22–25; Luke 22:14–23; 1 Cor 11: 17–34
We do it to proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Cor 11:26). Jesus’ death is considered the turning point of history, the deciding shift in the battle against death and evil that goes through the heart of every human being and affects the entire world in which we live. We see it as a public act of continuing commitment to Jesus; of identifying in his suffering and death the immense cost of our sinfulness and the sin done against us.
Practically what this means at HWBC is that each Sunday we will pause from musical reflection and celebration and teaching for this time. A member of our church then leads us in a reflection on the meaning of the cross for us, he or she then breaks up bread (as Jesus did) which is shared amongst us. The leader then passes around small glasses of grape juice from a common ‘cup’, each believer taking one, and then usually drinking it together as a sign of unity and in acknowledgement of the common cup that Jesus shared around the table with his disciples.
What does it mean? The bread represents the body of Christ, and the wine or grape juice represents the blood of Christ. Within Protestant Christianity, there are a range of views on the precise meaning of this – from purely symbolic (common in Baptist churches) to sacramental (common in Anglican churches). We allow that within our church there will be a range of views on this.
What is crucial about communion is how it draws us into unity with Jesus in his death – and resurrection – and reminds us of our freedom from sin and evil to come in the life ahead.
Who can participate? Any believer. This will normally be stated by the person leading, with words such as “Anyone who believes in the Lord Jesus is welcome to take part. If you are not sure, please let the bread and grape juice pass by.” If you are not yet a believer in Jesus please let the bread and juice pass by in recognition of the seriousness of the act.