By Stuart Powell
When Christians gather to partake of the bread and the cup, we have one key focus: remembering Jesus. Our Lord instructed his followers to do this.
“Then he took bread, and after giving thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’” (Luke 22:19, New English Translation).
Most of us celebrate Communion in a comfortable, modern building, but have you considered how our setting compares to those of earlier generations?
Paul offers a clue to this in his second letter to Timothy:
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David; such is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship to the point of imprisonment as a criminal, but Godʼs message is not imprisoned! So I endure all things for the sake of those chosen by God, that they too may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus and its eternal glory (2 Timothy 2:8-10, NET).
Paul’s words suggest there were few creature comforts for those enduring Roman justice. Paul spent at least two years imprisoned in Caesarea, and he likely was imprisoned at least once more. In the months before his execution, Paul continued to remember Jesus from a Roman prison. Though he doesn’t mention it, Paul likely gathered with other believers during his confinement. And they remembered Jesus with those same three ingredients: the bread, the cup, and fellowship with one another.
This weekend in foreign lands, some disciples will gather secretly to fellowship together and remember Jesus using the bread and the cup. In prisons, Christ followers will set aside morsels from their meager rations and remember Jesus together. In towering buildings, people will sing modern praise songs and enjoy the bread and cup with one another. In beautiful cathedrals it is the same thing: the bread, the cup, and the fellowship of believers.
Throughout the history of the church, many followers of Jesus have risked their lives to remember Jesus in the manner he requested. In wartime, in closed countries, and while under threat, they gathered bread and cup to fellowship with other believers. Despite plagues, famines, floods, and earthquakes, the three remain constant: bread, cup, and fellowship. Christ is remembered.
Every Christ follower today is invited to join this act of remembrance repeated through countless generations. The bread—the body of Christ sacrificed for your restoration. The cup—Jesus’ blood poured out to cleanse our spirits. The fellowship of believers—the tangible representatives of Christ on earth until Jesus returns to restore all things. Let us join the throng in remembrance of Jesus.
Stuart Powell lives outside of Terre Haute, Indiana, where he serves with the North Side Christian Church.