UNLOCKING THE SYMBOLISM OF COMMUNION

A blog post about Communion theology, feeding bread to chickens, and finding true community around the table.
By: Rev. Kristina Roth-Klinck
Perkins Pastoral Intern and Communion Nerd


“On the night in which Jesus Christ gave himself up for us, he took bread, gave thanks to God, broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ Likewise, when the supper was over, Jesus took the cup, gave thanks to God, gave it to his disciples and said, ‘Drink from this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’”
The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, affirmed that God is always making grace available through sacraments. Holy Communion is one of the two sacraments that the United Methodist Church practices: Baptism and Holy Communion. A sacrament is an outward sign of an inward grace. Basically that means that God uses outward things — material things — such as water, bread, and juice, as  instruments of divine grace. The gifts of bread and wine are channels of God’s grace available through the action of the Holy Spirit. 
During Holy Communion, we remember and retell the story of when Christ first instituted communion, when he broke bread and drank wine with the disciples. The pastor then calls upon the Holy Spirit in a part called the epiclesis, which is a fancy term for when we ask God to bless the bread and wine so that they are made for us the body and blood of Christ. The elements have been consecrated, or set apart for sacred use. Because of this, what we do with the remaining bread and wine should express our stewardship of God’s gifts and respect for the purpose they have served. 
This is why the bread and juice are given back to the earth — why you see us pour the juice out in the grass, or give the leftover bread pieces to our White Rock chickens in the garden — rather than down the drain or in the garbage.
As someone who has a past of disordered eating and excessive exercise, community around the table is a painful place for me. While I want to meet friends for dinner and enjoy holidays with decadent desserts and entrees, it can be emotionally difficult as they are centered around food. I have a dream that we can reclaim community around the table by placing it in and around the sacrament of Holy Communion. Jesus and his disciples partook in the Eucharist around the table at an actual meal, beginning and ending this meal around Holy Communion. The Eucharist, which nourishes and sustains our soul through divine grace was first centered in and around a meal. Through partaking in the bread and cup, we encounter Christ in Holy Communion, repeatedly touched by divine grace and shaped in God’s image. Just as the gift of bread and wine nourishes and sustains our spiritual soul, food nourishes our natural soul, body, mind, and spirit. 
We come home to God during Holy Communion, and likewise, we come home to ourselves, fully loving ourselves — all by the grace of God!

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