The Last Supper was a Passover meal, and like the Passover, is meant to be done as a remembrance. The Passover meal is observed once a year with the goal of reminding the Jewish people that God freed them from slavery from Egypt. Today’s Communion service is also done as a reminder of freedom from slavery, but it is the slavery of sin.
Just because people are freed from slavery doesn’t mean they are free.
Life didn’t easier after the Jews were freed from being slaves. They wandered for forty years in the desert trying to reach the Promised Land. There was hardship and pain. There were tests and perils. Not everybody made it. A lot died. Moses, the great leader, the one who intervened with God on behalf of the Jewish people, was one of them. Even Moses, handpicked by God, one of the few people to get to talk with God face to face, even Moses failed and wasn’t allowed to enter the Promised Land.
The same is true for following Jesus. It isn’t an express ticket. It isn’t a “get out of jail free” card. It is a transition. It is an end to your old life yet a beginning to a whole new life of work and hardship. It isn’t easy following Jesus.
Jesus instituted this ritual meal the night before he was captured. He knew what was about to happen, but his disciples didn’t. He knew that they would need a reminder of the life of Jesus and the prophecies that he fulfilled. He knew that they would need a reminder of the promises that he embodies.
Both ritual meals celebrate freedom, but Passover is only done once a year. Communion can be done every time that Jesus’ followers get together. In some churches this is once a week (Episcopal). In some it is every day, several times a day (Catholic). In some it is quarterly (Baptist). In some it is yearly (Jehovah’s Witness). In some it is almost never.
Every time I get together with friends to study the Scriptures, I celebrate Communion. It is a reminder of who we are there for. It is a reminder of who is at the center of our circle. It is a reminder that this isn’t just a social gathering.
I love ritual, and I really love the ritual of Communion. While anybody can celebrate Communion, I realize that not everybody is comfortable performing a ritual. So I provide this part of our gathering.
I try to make it interesting every time. I try to share the meaning and history of the ceremony. I don’t go from a script. There is no order of service as such. There isn’t much liturgy yet either. But I’m working on that. I think that it is important to have everybody participate in the ceremony, rather than just being part of the audience. Communion isn’t a passive thing.
It is a remembering in the truest sense. It is where Jesus joins us, not only joins with us, but joins us together. Jesus enters into our selves, our very beings, in a literal and spiritual way. Also, we are knit together with all other members of the Body of Christ, past, present, and future. We become one.
In the same way that separate grains of wheat become one loaf of bread, we become one in the Body of Christ when we celebrate Communion. Somehow, we stop being free, and yet we become free at the same time. We stop being individuals and we become part of something bigger. We give up our petty needs and join together for something greater. Together, we are stronger.