What difference does it make on Monday
If I take communion on Sunday?
I Corinthians 11:17-34, Genesis 28:10-22, Luke 22:14-20
A question was asked of me some time ago. It was about communion. The question was, “What difference does it make on Monday, if I take communion today?” Since hearing that question, I have asked a variety of people that same question. The answers have been interesting to say the least.
It makes no difference
Some have been quick to say, “it makes no difference.” On Communion Sundays we simply remember what Jesus did for us 2,000 years ago. We take communion so we do not forget, because our faulty human memory will forget what it is not reminded of. So once each month we jog our memory. On Veterans Day, at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month we remember those who laid down their lives for their country. On Communion Sundays we remember that Jesus died for all of us, and of course, we remember the resurrection too. But that’s all. Nothing more. And so, taking communion on a Sunday doesn’t make much difference on a Monday, except I have a “jogged memory”.
It used to make a difference
Others have said, “It used to make a difference, but does so no longer.” The theology of the mediaeval world said that the presence of Christ was communicated indirectly through the sacrament, rather than through direct personal experience. So if you wanted Christ to be your companion on Mondays, you would need to take him into your life in the taking of the Lord’s supper on the Sunday. On Communion Sundays we “load up on grace” just as we loaded up with groceries earlier in the week, and which both run out as we make our way through the following days. Communion on Sunday then had a great effect on Monday and the days that followed, or so people thought.
“But that was then. This is now,” these voices say. We now know better. God does not limit his grace to the sacraments. He is everywhere at all times. So on Monday, He is with me whether or not I have taken communion. It doesn’t make any difference anymore. Sorry about that!
It makes a difference, if we take it correctly
There are other voices, however, who are reluctant to say that it does no good. They may admit, with some sadness, that for many people it has no value. Some people take communion and it has no effect. It does not affect them even at the time they are taking the bread and the wine, so it does no good at all on Monday morning.
But for others, they say, it does have great value. Some take these moments seriously and renew their commitment to God and live out that renewal of faith on the days that follow. Some come to the table of the Lord aware of their sin, and at the taking of the bread and wine, receive fresh forgiveness. The weight of guilt is lifted and they enter into the week ahead with a new spring in their step.
Some come to the table of the lord aware of the weakness of their lives. They sense their frailty before temptation and stress and ask God to strengthen them. And these sense his support and enter Monday with renewed strength of purpose and character.
That is the result intended by God. But, these voices say, our benefiting depends so much upon how we come to this moment. It can do us a world of good. Or it can have no value at all. But there is nothing magical about communion. Its benefits are not automatic. It all depends upon our attitude. That is why they say that Paul exhorts us all to “first examine yourself and then eat the bread and drink from the cup.” It is the examination of ourselves and the resolutions that we make that have the primary value. Without that, communion has no value.
Communion always makes a difference
But for most of the last 2,000 years the Christian Church has answered “Communion always makes a difference.” Several reasons have been given.
First – Communion is the declaration of our need for ongoing forgiveness.
We were forgiven when we first came to Christ, but there is something frail and flawed about us all that causes us to frequently offend one another.
- I am not speaking of committing dastardly crimes against one another.
- I am speaking of the thoughtlessness that causes disheartenment in another.
- I am speaking about our preoccupation with our own needs that makes us insensitive to the needs of others.
- I am speaking about the innate need to protect ourselves and our own lifestyles, which causes us to shove other people to places of secondary importance.
Every communion service is a reminder of our capacity for doing damage. And being reminded of that on a Sunday, should make a radical difference on how we live out life on a Monday. I should enter into the week less arrogant about my own “virtues” and more modest about my own righteousness.
Second – Communion is the declaration that God forgives sin.
The Communion service also serves as the re-announcement that God forgives us of our sinning. But this service is not just for the announcement that God forgives sin. It is the place where sin is actually forgiven. This special service is created as the place for the convergence of my renewed confession and God’s gift of renewed forgiveness.
There are things that I have done, for which I cannot forgive myself.
There are things I have done, for which my neighbour refuses to forgive me.
But God is the God of all grace and grants forgiveness whether anyone else does or not. And he does it 70 times 7.
And on a day like today I can bring my life to God and confess the truth about my life and know that God forgives me. That should make a difference on Monday morning! I should enter the new week with a spring in my step knowing that I am a person forgiven, which should make it easier to forgive all who offend me.
Third – Communion is a call to renewed allegiance to Him.
This moment serves as a public declaration of my intent to live as a Christian. To sit in a pew Sunday after Sunday leaves a fairly unclear signal. You may simply be saying, “I am here to learn, to listen, and to think about the teachings of Jesus.” Your presence in the sanctuary may simply be saying that you have come to enjoy the music or to enjoy the fellowship and to meet familiar friends.” You may be saying, however, by your presence, “I am here to worship God and to listen for his direction for my life.” But we cannot always tell a person’s intention, nor do we always know our own intentions. Sometimes we just come because it is Sunday morning.
But in coming for communion we are saying something less ambiguous.
We are saying to ourselves and to others, “I am a follower of Jesus Christ!”
We are saying to ourselves and to anyone watching us, “I too belong to the Kingdom that God is building.”
Frank Chubb tells of one of his members who attended church faithfully up until his death. He was deaf and could not hear the preaching or the singing. His eyes were so poor he could no longer see well enough to read the scriptures or the hymns. When asked why he bothered, his answer was “So the devil knows whose side I am on.” Sometimes coming to communion is to announce to God, to ourselves, to God’s Church and to our neighbours whose side we are really on. In the Anglican Wedding Service, a groom would say to his bride “With my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow”. There is something like that taking place in Communion. We declare physically, with our bodies, our allegiance to Him. We say, as we take communion, “With my body I Thee worship.”
For some of us are fairly introverted, and do not easily announce our identity. But on a communion Sunday, inhibitions aside, it is the occasion for a statement about our identity. It doesn’t say what kind of a Christian you are. Some of us know ourselves to be minimally Christian, but this is a time to declare our allegiance. And that should make a difference on Monday morning when any question arises as to whose side we are on in the great moral and spiritual struggles of our culture.
What if I take communion with none of these intentions?
But what happens if I take communion not caring about forgiveness of sins or announcing my allegiance to him? Does nothing happen? Oh No! St. Paul knew that to eat and drink unworthily is to do damage to ourselves. He says to the church in Corinth, “many of you are weak and ill, and some of you have died.” All because they shared in communion thoughtlessly and irreverently.
For the communion table is not quite a safe place. It is a place of either blessing or curse, but never a neutral place. For something happens every time we take communion or refuse to take it. We either find forgiveness of our sins or add one more sin to the pile of our wrongdoing. We say to God either, “I intend to ally myself with you.” Or we say “I am just going along with this as a social convenience. I don’t really intend to be on Your side.” And that is hypocrisy that everyone despises.
My friends these are sober words. But they are on target. If I take communion without caring about forgiveness or about standing on the side of God, then Monday will be different. I will be less prepared to face my world and make a difference. There will be a wider gulf between me and God than there was on the previous Saturday, and I will find myself more distant in my fellowship with God. I will find myself on Monday less useful to the Kingdom that God is building.
Bottom line, my friends. Taking communion on Sunday does make a difference on how life is lived on a Monday. We enter the new week either better prepared or more damaged. We will not enter it the same as if we had not had this hour together.