Worship: The case for communion

Religious or not, a ritual can make us feel connected

One of the saddest losses of those who have given up on the church is the loss of communion. Forget the sermons, forget the committees, and forget Sunday school. To have lost communion — that simple, sacred, mysterious moment of taking bread and wine, of being connected to something that bridges heaven and earth and binds humans as brothers and sisters — now that is something to lament.

Of course, if you believe nothing is sacred, then you likely think nothing is lost. But if you believe that there is something mysterious and sacramental in the stuff of everyday life — in the blue bonnets, in the unexpected sunset of indescribable colors, in the cry of a newborn — then to have lost communion is to have lost one of the most beautiful and reverent moments this life can give.

Communion is an act of beholding the mystery that creation is enough to hold the life of God. Just as God appeared in the burning bush to Moses and as a baby in Bethlehem, in the Eucharist, God chooses to become known in ordinary elements. These earthy items point to a sacramental world. Farmers, vinedressers, and bakers spend their labor in what becomes a holy activity, thus making their actions holy as well. Fields and vineyards and kitchens are as blessed as any cathedral.

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Barbara Brown Taylor said, “By the power of our beliefs, we choose what kind of world we will live in — a porous world, full of glory doors leaking light, or a flat world where everything is as it seems.”

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Communion is more than beholding. Communion is also belonging. Brian Zahnd said that the Eucharist “teaches us how to belong to God’s good world — a world that is more sacred than we ever dreamed.” Flesh and blood connect with simple elements made from the same dust. Broken bread reminds us of Christ’s broken body, and our own brokenness, but somehow we experience wholeness when we receive together. That’s found only in community, not as solo flyers of faith.

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On a recent beautiful Saturday morning, I performed a wedding at the Arboretum. The couple exchanged vows and rings, and then turned with me to a nearby table where bread and wine were waiting. I reminded them that they would never be alone. Christ would be with them, in living Presence, and through the Body of Christ, the church. Surrounded by budding flowers and singing birds, who can say where the sacrament began and ended?
In Water to Wine, Zahnd offers a beautiful poem on the sacramental nature of life called “Belong.”

Let Christ inform all of life
Don’t be a religious cliché
Be a real human being
Belong to the human race
Belong to the woods
Belong to the city
Go for long walks…
Laugh more than you do
Weep now and then…
Pray
Eat a peach
Do something ridiculous
Go dancing…
Talk to your neighbor
Not about religion
Go to church
Go to the circus
Don’t confuse them
Be human
Belong

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