Holy Communion Online Across Time and Space
The little church I serve as interim pastor serves Communion once each month. Many churches follow this pattern. But this church, like thousands of others, has canceled all Sunday gatherings for worship. Instead, they produce an online service that includes many of the familiar parts of worship, including some music, scripture, and a message/sermon by either myself or those provided by Life.Church where the main preacher is Craig Groeschel. But what about Holy Communion? How could we offer the Lord’s Supper? Our people are used to having Communion once each month, as many churches offer it. Many churches do bring the communion elements, the bread or wafer plus some juice or wine, to the homes of people who are unable to come to church, and then a pastor or an elder serves them along with some scripture reading and prayers. However, that won’t work now! We cannot go drop in on someone, sit down in their living room and chat, much less bring some bread or juice from the church. But we did offer Holy Communion last Sunday. Here’s how it worked. First, church leaders obtained a supply of prepackaged disposable communion cups manufactured and pre-filled with juice, plus a wafer on top under a second seal. So the materials are reliably safe to consume. These were dropped off with brief at-the-door visits throughout the congregation. For the online service, I recorded a video of myself conducting the communion service at our home, which followed my eight minute message for the Sunday. I simply invited everyone viewing it to take part with the elements delivered to them. The complete online service put together by our volunteers is on the church website for an extended time. Consequently, people could watch it and take part in the Lord’s Supper at any particular time and place, perhaps using some other bread or juice they had in their homes. So what’s so exciting about this? Is it really right to do it? Is this what Jesus intended? Perhaps some readers who are used to more formal worship traditions would question this method. But here’s why I think it is quite Biblical. I believe Jesus intends this sacrament to travel across time and space. Let me explain. First, he was fulfilling a historic purpose, both in the last supper and in his suffering and death. These things occurred about 2,000 years ago. And he clearly intends that the sacramental meal should reach into the future, because he said, “When you do this, remember me.” He was looking ahead into the future, connecting with believers like us. Next, about 40 days later, he said, “I am with you always, to the end of the age,” in Matthew 28:20. He had earlier referred to the bread and the cup, saying, “This is my body” and “this is my blood” in Matthew 26:26, 28. The presence of Jesus is there in some mysterious way, whenever we eat and drink in remembrance of him. So it reaches across the years to us right now. Finally, he connected the meal to our future together, when in Luke 22:15-16, he looks forward to sharing in this meal again when it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God. That future is yet to come. Jesus designed something that believers like us can do, as we share in the Supper, to remember him and his sacrifice, to celebrate his presence with us, and to look forward to his return, all in one event. That is why I especially enjoyed conducting this Holy Communion online and sharing the experience with whomever does watch and take part. We are experiencing our connection with him across all time and space. And I was especially blessed to have the privilege of celebrating this very Holy Communion.
© 2020 Stanley Hagemeyer