Communion thoughts. How to – part one.


Anybody can celebrate communion. When Jesus celebrated what we now call the Last Supper with his disciples, they were told simply to do this every time they gathered in his name.

He didn’t say they had to be ordained. In fact, Jesus didn’t ordain anybody. He said that to call anybody teacher or Rabbi or Father is to take away from God’s authority.

Jesus came to level the playing field. Jesus makes us all equal.

When I celebrate Communion, I use matzo and kosher grape juice. Both can be purchased at your local grocery store, in the Jewish section.

Communion is a shortened version of the Passover meal, which is a bigger version of the weekly Sabbath meal.

At the Sabbath meal, Jews use challah, a braided egg bread. It is a yeast bread. During the Passover meal, they use matzo, “the bread of affliction”. It is flat and hard. It is a bit like a cracker. It does not have yeast in it, so it doesn’t rise. It is to remind them that their ancestors didn’t have time to let the bread rise when they escaped from Egypt. It is also to remind them of the manna from heaven that God provided for them while they were wandering in the desert for 40 years.

Matzo closely resembles the texture of communion wafers. Or rather, communion wafers are like matzo. It is supposed to be the same thing. Sadly, standard communion wafers don’t look like matzo at all, so Christians don’t see the connection. Nor are we taught it. None of this is a secret, but it isn’t advertised either.

I use kosher grape juice rather than wine because I might have someone there who is in recovery. It is really important for me to include everyone. If I use wine, then those people who cannot have wine are left out. That isn’t right.

I have been to a number of church services that used wine and the priest spelled it out. S/he would say that they used real wine, and that if you couldn’t have wine, to cross your arms over yourself so that the chalice bearer would pass you by. The priest said that you got the full benefit of communion without both elements.

I was a chalice bearer, and that is an awkward moment. Everybody gets wine, except one person. That makes that one person stick out. Their inability to have wine is now essentially public knowledge. It is shameful and embarrassing for them. Something that should be private now isn’t.

There was also a problem at my old church with young children drinking from the chalice. The rule in that denomination was that if you were baptized, you could take communion. They practiced infant baptism. You get the picture. Some children were sucking up the wine like it was Kool-aid.

It all made me think. To use wine is to exclude. To use wine is to cause problems.

I don’t know what makes kosher grape juice kosher, but it sure tastes good, and it comes in a glass bottle. I like that better than plastic. I’m sure I could use standard grape juice but this seems more appropriate.

I put out the matzo, unbroken, on top of a small dish. I pour the grape juice in a cup, half full. I want to make sure everybody has enough, but not make them feel overwhelmed. I pour it at the beginning of the service so that it has a chance to get to room temperature. It is important that people see there is enough for them, but it is also important to finish it off at the end. It can’t be poured back into the container, and it is impolite to pour it down the drain. More on that later.

To Do List

God gives us a to-do list. We are told quite clearly what is expected of us, as servants of God. Those of us who have chosen to follow God don’t have to wonder what our role is. And we most certainly have a role. We are to be a force for good in the world.

Micah 6:8
“Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the LORD requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Then Jesus gives out very specific instructions to his disciples as they go out into the world. These are the very same instructions he gives to us as well. We are those disciples. There is no difference between them and us.

Matthew 10:7-20
“7 As you go, announce this: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, drive out demons. You have received free of charge; give free of charge. 9 Don’t take along gold, silver, or copper for your money-belts. 10 Don’t take a traveling bag for the road, or an extra shirt, sandals, or a walking stick, for the worker is worthy of his food. 11 “When you enter any town or village, find out who is worthy, and stay there until you leave.12 Greet a household when you enter it, 13 and if the household is worthy, let your peace be on it. But if it is unworthy, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 I assure you: It will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town. 16 “Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves. 17 Because people will hand you over to sanhedrins and flog you in their synagogues, beware of them. 18 You will even be brought before governors and kings because of Me, to bear witness to them and to the nations. 19 But when they hand you over, don’t worry about how or what you should speak. For you will be given what to say at that hour, 20 because you are not speaking, but the Spirit of your Father is speaking through you.”

Matthew 22:34-40
34 When the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. 35 And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test Him: 36 “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”
37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

When Jesus says this, he is echoing this verse from the Torah-

Deuteronomy 6:4-9
4 “Listen, Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is One. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. 7 Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Matthew 25:31-40
31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
35 For I was hungry
and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger and you took Me in;
36 I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you took care of Me;
I was in prison and you visited Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’
40 “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’

Jesus tells us how to recognize someone who believes –

Mark 16:17-18
17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In My name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages; 18 they will pick up snakes; if they should drink anything deadly, it will never harm them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will get well.”

And what is the last thing that Jesus asks Peter, and thus by extension, the whole church to do?

John 21:15-19
15 When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.”
“Feed My lambs,” He told him.
16 A second time He asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.”
“Shepherd My sheep,” He told him.
17 He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”
Peter was grieved that He asked him the third time, “Do you love Me?” He said, “Lord, You know everything! You know that I love You.”
“Feed My sheep,” Jesus said. 18 “I assure you: When you were young, you would tie your belt and walk wherever you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you and carry you where you don’t want to go.” 19 He said this to signify by what kind of death he would glorify God.[j] After saying this, He told him, “Follow Me!”

(All translations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.)