A Shared Meal
By: Rev. Phil Dieke, Associate Pastor of Disciple and Digital Ministry

“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you…” (Luke 22:15)
This Sunday is World Communion Sunday. Special Sundays like this are yet another reminder that we are still in a pandemic. In no way did I anticipate during World Communion 2020 that we would still be where we are now. That we would still be taking Communion sitting in our pews, so close and yet so far from one another.
Don’t get me wrong. Some things have improved. We are at least worshiping together in the sanctuary. We can be physically present to one another for Communion (at least some of us can) and for this I truly am grateful.
And yet, it still doesn’t feel right.

I don’t even think it’s the way we’re doing Communion. While I’m not a huge fan of these all-in-one Communion kits (“bread” on the bottom, cup on top) — that’s not it. I do believe in communion bread being tasty, yet it isn’t the type of element that is throwing me off. 
It isn’t even the format. I was never a huge fan of filing forward to take Communion. It never felt as personal, or relational, as I believe Communion should be. But now I find myself longing for that because at least there was interaction. I actually received Communion from somebody. There was an exchange, an interaction. We looked each other in the eyes. It felt more communal than where we are, but where we are is better than where we were.
And yet, it still doesn’t feel right. 
As I ponder all this, I think I am coming to realize why I have never loved Communion, or rather, why I have never loved the way we typically celebrate Communion in the UMC. Specifically I don’t love the filing in lines, the receiving process, the “to kneel or not to kneel?” question, all while being quiet and reverent (though I realize this does change from place to place). Even though I have had some deeply spiritual encounters through that process, I have never loved it.
I have never loved it because when I read the story of the Last Supper I am reminded that Jesus was sharing a meal with his disciples. Like, a legit meal. There was (and still is) great ritual associated with the Passover meal. I’m not opposed to the rituals of Communion. I actually love ritual. Ritual is not what I have a problem with. 
I’m also not opposed to quiet and reverence. There are always times for reverence. However, in my head, meals are not that time. Meals are tables full of people. Meals are loud. Meals are often a little unruly, and maybe even a bit irreverent. Meals are the communal expression of our shared humanity. And that is what I feel has been missing throughout this pandemic as we have limited the meals we share together, and altered the ways we typically partake of Communion. 
Sure, the Communion we participate in at church is an opportunity for me to remember, as Jesus instructs. I remember Jesus. I remember why Jesus was gathered with his disciples for a Passover meal to celebrate the liberating God who delivered them from Egypt. I also remember that Jesus was indeed around a table with his closest friends (and his betrayer… that’s a topic for another blog) sharing a meal. Thus, partaking in Communion I am reminded to value the meals I get to share with my loved ones around a packed table: eating, drinking, laughing, crying.

Communion reminds me that meals are the communal expression of our shared humanity, and thus they are indeed holy experiences. Meals can be experiences that ground us in God’s divine grace as we break bread with others just as Jesus did and called us to do.
Friends, I miss those meals. Like Jesus, “I eagerly desire to eat [a meal] with you.” May it be so.

Reflection questions:
  • When you think of shared meals, what emotions do you feel?
  • What do you value most about Communion?
  • Are there aspects of Communion you wish we did differently? Why?
  • Take a few minutes to read the full passage in Luke 22:14-27. What stands out to you as you read this familiar story of the Last Supper? 

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