You can’t do communion alone

When I was in middle and high school I spent a lot of time home alone. My mom worked crazy hours and my older brother joined the Air Force when I was in 8th grade. A million nights home alone will lead you past boredom. While I always kept the TV on so I didn’t feel alone I rarely watched it. (A habit I often fall back on today, to the annoyance of Kristen.) And there’s only so many nights in a row you can play video games before the loneliness of solo gameplay sets in.

In fact, there comes a point where boredom leads to creativity. Creative with things you can do alone. 

In those years I would take as long as I possibly could to eat meals. I’d take forever to cook it. Or I’d cook it out of order or one thing at a time. Anything to make it last longer and give me something to do.

One little food oriented fascination I had was with communion. I don’t know why but I’d play around with communion elements. I’d tear bread, or a tortilla, or a tortilla chip… and mimic the motions of communion that we’d do in church. I’d recite the verses, dip the bread, the whole nine yards.

I wasn’t mocking it and it wasn’t quite the real thing. Actually, I used to worry that it was sacrilegious. And I would never have told a soul about this back then. In fact, I’m a little nervous about writing about it today.

Here’s the thing: It wasn’t really communion. Sure, it was the motions of communion. I got a certain feeling during communion at church, one worth trying to replicate.

But you can’t do communion alone. Even if you nail the elements and the words and everything. Because you can’t do communion alone. 

The very word communion has the same root word as community, with a different suffix. Just like you can’t be in a community alone you can’t experience communion alone.

This is something for those of us in evangelicalism to wrestle with. We have a personal pronoun issue. Our relationship with Jesus is about communion, not ourselves. Communion with the Father, communion with the Son & Holy Spirit, and communion with one another. It isn’t about you it’s about we.

I’ve often found the way we evangelicals do communion to be a lonely shadow of the experience found in other types of churches. We have reshaped communion into being about me and my relationship with Jesus, uncomfortably giving space to create a private moment, instead of allowing communion to be about a communal thing, our collective relationship with Jesus.

Satan wants nothing more than us to look out for our own best interests. Never forget the table. The table drives us to communion. 

Photo by Pierre Porte via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

4 comments

  1. Having just come back from a youth retreat focused on community, this perspective of communion and community is fresh in my mind. I’m ready for the Church to regain the communal nature that actually makes it the Church.

    The logistics of how we participate in communion together matter. I don’t know about you or others, but in my setting (Nazarene), communion is generally taken by passing trays of single cups of juice and cut-up pieces of bread (or those God-forsaken wafers) for each individual to take. I think this points to a larger reality, that we are basically saying, “Communion is for you the individual.” Instead, coming forward to tear a piece of bread off of the loaf and dip it into a cup of juice is much more communal in nature and speaks to the theology behind communion.

  2. When I was younger (elementary school or so), I used to pretend to be the priest and serve communion (good ole Kraft american cheese and grape juice) to my mom. I had a book I read from and everything. Cheers to building community.

  3. Yeah, but I wonder if someone stranded on an island or the last person on earth could do communion alone.

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