A couple months ago, I was reading in Oswald Chambers’s, My Utmost for His Highest, that a true saint “becomes broken bread and poured out wine in the hands of Jesus Christ for other lives.” Although I have pondered communion quite a bit over the years, particularly in my theology classes, this statement by Chambers triggered a sequence of reflections I had never previously considered.
As believers, we are Christ’s body. In instituting the Lord’s Supper, Jesus said, “This is my body broken for you; this is my blood split for you.” Putting these two truths together illustrates the calling of the believer. If Christ’s physical body was broken for sinners; how much more his spiritual body–the Church. Our souls are saved, but our bodies and lives will be broken. It is a sobering reminder; one we participate in regularly.
Every month or week, this ordinance of communion calls us to reorient our lives from worldliness to the imitation of Christ. Communion not only draws us together regularly as a community to embrace Christ’s working of salvation in and for us, but also its working through us. It is a physical manifestation of what our lives will be. In eating the bread and drinking the cup, we’re recognizing that we participate in brokenness for the sake of others. We are volunteering ourselves to suffer for Christ’s mission.
Therefore communion isn’t just about what we receive, but what we give. Are we willing to take the gift that asks us to reciprocate in giving up our lives? That’s the beauty and struggle of being a believer. Suffering is integral to the life of the Church. It is only through suffering that Christ brought salvation. The suffering will end–when salvation is complete. But right now, we are still participating in God’s working out of salvation, and thus, as his body, we should expect to be called to the same suffering and life he lived.
In pondering how the Church spreads the gospel message by participation in Christ’s suffering, the image of the feeding of the five thousand came to mind. As Christ fed the many by multiplying the loaves and fish, so also he multiplies the message of communion through his Church. It’s a sobering call to take up our crosses and follow him; but’s a joyful one. For this suffering bears out into gospel, good news–from Christ’s suffering springs eternal life for the many!