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Responsibilities of the Church 8: Observe Communion

Responsibilities of the Church Day 8 – Observe Communion

“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” (1Corinthians 11:26, ESV)

“And He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.’” (Luke 22:19-20, ESV)

On July 26, 2012, I bought two coffees in the Hong Kong airport to kick off a 15.5-hour flight back to the United States with my wife and our newly adopted daughter from China. The Starbucks accepted Chinese currency, but gave Hong Kong dollars as change. Once we were back in the states, I exchanged most of my Chinese yuan for US dollars. But the Hong Kong bills I had were only worth $2.50, and the bank wouldn’t exchange them because there wasn’t enough. So I kept two bills. One of them went to my daughter Lacey, and one of them has been in my wallet ever since. Every time I look at that bill, I’m reminded of the journey we took to bring Lacey home with us. It’s only worth $1.25 to everybody else, but it’s a priceless reminder to me.

On April 3, A.D. 33, at about 3:00 on a Friday afternoon, Jesus died. This was the most important thing that had ever happened in all of history. In that moment, Jesus died and paid the price for sin. Being the most important moment in history (perhaps eclipsed only by His resurrection on Sunday), it makes sense that it should be commemorated and remembered. Thankfully, Jesus showed us how to do it. As He gathered with His disciples on Thursday evening, He showed them how to remember something that hadn’t happened yet! He made it simple to obey with easy-to-obtain elements: bread and wine, which were readily available and inexpensive. In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul points out that He did this “on the night when He was betrayed” (vs. 23). Knowing that events were taking place that would put His death at Calvary into motion, Jesus spent time instituting a way to remember His forthcoming death—a crushing, violent death—bread picturing an utterly broken body, and wine picturing blood willingly poured out. For those who witnessed it, maybe it wouldn’t be something they would want to picture again and again. But in doing this, Jesus wanted them to understand that His death was so significant that it was something they needed to remember.

I believe this is a fundamental, primary responsibility of the church today—to observe the breaking of bread (communion) and, in so doing, obey the command Jesus gave that Thursday evening. He told them (and us) to remember Him. Why wouldn’t we? It’s fairly clear that it was regularly practiced in the early church. Luke writes in Acts 2:42 that the church was “devoted…to the breaking of bread.” In 1 Corinthians 11:25-26 Paul uses the term “often” when referring to communion. And then in Acts 20:7, Luke writes it was “on the first day of the week” and states they “were gathered together to break bread,” making us understand that this was their practice. When they came together on Sunday, it wasn’t just to preach or give money or hang out; they came together with the purpose of remembering the death of Jesus Christ. 

Why should we do any different? I’ve never heard a valid reason why the church shouldn’t observe communion every week. I’ve heard reasons—mostly wrapped around how much time it would consume from the rest of the service. What difference does that make? A better idea would be to devote a single service each Sunday solely to the practice of remembering Him. Do teachers really feel that whatever they have to preach on any given Sunday is more important than obeying the command of Jesus to remember Him? Paul points out that when we do this, we’re actually preaching the Gospel. We are proclaiming His death and what it means to us. Without His death, we would be lost forever. So I ask again, why wouldn’t we do this every single week? It’s more important than filling pews, filling offering coffers, or whatever sermon has been constructed for the week. 

Jesus commanded us: “Remember Me!” And that’s exactly how I want to spend my Sunday morning—thinking of His love with vivid reminders of a broken body and poured out blood, the sacrifice that saved my soul. It’s what He asked us to do. The least we can do is obey that request.

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