It was the day we were leaving. The muggy air hung heavy and our skin glistened with the sweat we had almost grown accustomed to. We had just spent 2 weeks in Peru, living together, eating together, traveling together, walking rickety bridges together, drilling wells together, playing with children together, pulling teeth together…and just experiencing this new journey together.
We had found out more about each other. We had, at times, gotten on each other’s nerves. But the common goal of being open and loving people through the vehicle of drilling wells, playing with children, or pulling teeth, had kept us united in our diversity. We felt accomplished. We felt satisfied. And we felt connected – like a family.
At the end of every trip, we usually partake in a practice called “Communion.” Communion comes from the tradition where Jesus, on the night before he died, had a final meal with His disciples. At the meal, as they all talked and shared together, He took the bread that they were all getting ready to eat, thanked God for it, and then broke it into pieces and handed it out to His friends. But as He broke it, He said this strange phrase: “Take this bread and eat it – this is my body which is broken for you…” And I can imagine them confused and wondering what Jesus meant. Then Jesus takes a cup of wine, and blessing it, says to His friends again, “this is my blood which is poured out for you as a sacrifice to forgive sins. Drink this in remembrance of Me.” And so this tradition, known as Communion, is what a lot of churches partake of. (You can read about this tradition in Matthew 26:26-30 in the Bible)
In most churches, when they partake of Communion, it is a small wafer-type bread piece, almost smaller than a cracker. And in some churches, for the Communion wine, it is either real wine, or grape juice, but it is a small sip from a tiny cup or a small sip from a cup that is shared. And this service, known as Communion, is usually a symbol of taking Christ into the person, just like He said, “do this in remembrance of Me.” And so at most Communion services, it is used as a symbol of forgiveness – taking in Christ’s “blood” to cleanse us from our sins, or partaking of His body to give us spiritual sustenance.
These practices of Communion are good reminders of what He did and still does do for us in our lives…
But what if Jesus actually literally meant what He said??
What if Jesus, when He said, “Do this in remembrance of Me” was talking about more than just eating a wafer or sipping a gulp of grape juice? What if Jesus was saying, “Live this kind of lifestyle. BE bread to someone, like I have been and am BREAD to you! SACRIFICE your comfort, your selfishness, your lifestyle and pour it out for someone else. BE a life-giving flood of love to others. LIVE THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME.”
And silly us – what if we are the ones who make it all hard and symbolic? Did Jesus really mean for us to eat a tiny wafer and swallow a gulp of juice as a powerful reminder of His love and life? Don’t get me wrong – these symbols can be powerful reminders to us of what He did and is doing in our lives. However, we, as humans, are usually the ones who make things a lot more complicated then they were meant to be. What if Jesus was talking about real life, and how we are to LIVE in a lifestyle of COMMUNION with ALL people, everywhere, because we are in COMMUNION with Him?
Now I’m not talking about a commune. What I’m talking about is actually being the body of Christ and the blood of Christ to every person I come in contact with. And in every miniscule detail of my life, I am then living a lifestyle of communion with Christ and with the world around me. I become bread – whether that means listening to someone, or feeding someone, or connecting someone with an organization that can help them, etc. I become the wine to others – whether that means forgiving others, or providing them with a safe place to just be, or to help quench their thirst, or to help carry their burdens and help them smile or laugh again. I BE who God made me to be, in where ever I find myself to be. And I do this because God did it for me. I do this, I live this, I BE this because I am in COMMUNION with that God of LOVE. And therefore I am in COMMUNION with every other sacred living being around me. And it’s not something I fake – it’s something I am!
What if this is what it means to be in Holy Communion? The wafer and juice are nice reminders, but what if Jesus was talking about something entirely more radical and real? What would it look like if we lived this kind of love in every part of our lives? What if we took on His challenge and lived a lifestyle of “Do this in remembrance of Me” in every situation we encountered. What if we actually became LOVE with skin on?
So there we are sitting there, at our breakfast table, eating our final meal in Peru. And all these thoughts are racing through my head. I smile as I hear all our laughter and chit-chatting around the table. It’s a beautiful moment. Because in that moment, we were in Communion. For the past 2 weeks we had been living Communion. For the past 2 weeks we had been partaking in the lifestyle of love and selflessness and unity in the midst of diversity. We had all had the common goal of helping others, which had then drawn us together in a tighter bond. We had learned from our Peruvian brothers and sisters what a community looks like – how we all help each other because we all are lacking in one way or another, and perhaps the person next to me is holding the link to what I am in need of, and visa-versa. They had shown us that we are stronger together than we are alone. We were experiencing Holy Communion.
And so, as we finished eating our meal, we all got our water bottles together and filled them with water. Water had been the goal that connected us over this trip. I explained to them that in this Communion Service there would be no bread, no wafer – because we had been experiencing the Bread for the past 2 weeks. We had been living it, and partaking of the body day-in-and-day-out. We had been living Communion. But we were going to partake of a drink of water – water to symbolize life, connection with God and connection with others. And after we drank as much as we wanted from our bottle, we would pour out the rest of our water on the ground, slowly, as a prayer, thinking of all the faces, names and new friends we had acquired in our time here in Peru. As the water would pour into the ground, it was our prayer that God would continue to bless our new friends with life, sustenance, joy, and peace. This was our last Communion Service in Peru.
As we packed up our bags and put away our tents, and later that day as we loaded into the bus for the last time, and finally into the plane to fly back home, it occurred to me: perhaps we make the teachings of Jesus, and the teachings of LOVE much more complicated than they were meant to be. Perhaps we miss out on the powerful concept of living a life of Communion because we are only looking at a wafer and a drop of grape juice.