Back in November, while visiting family in Myrtle Beach, my husband and I attended a small Presbyterian church. The week we were there, one of their Elders gave a short temple talk about communion. He made the very valid point that we most often understand the Lord’s Supper as a time to reflect upon our relationship with God. After all, Jesus told his disciples:
“Do this in remembrance of me.” 1 Corinthians 11:24
It’s appropriate to look up as we drink the bread and wine, giving thanks to the one who made us and saved us.
He went on to explain that before partaking, it is also essential to look within ourselves. The apostle Paul told the Corinthian church:
“Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgement upon himself.” 1 Corinthians 11:28-29
Lutherans also consider this a necessary part of the communion service. At our church, the Pastor reads a pretty detailed explanation of “what we should believe and do.” (see Examine Yourself). So, this Elder concluded we should “look both ways” during communion — up and in.
That’s right as far as it goes. However, I believe we actually need to look three ways– up, in and around. The Lord’s Supper is a community event, which binds us not only to God, but to one another. In the same chapter of Corinthians already referenced, Paul reprimands the congregation because they are communing without regard for the needs of their fellow members.
“When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk.” 1 Corinthians 11:20-21
Paul makes it clear that this meal involves the entire body, an experience which promotes unity with God and with each other. We are not to simply satisfy ourselves.
“So then my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another … so that when you come together it will not be for judgement.” 1 Corinthians 11:33-34
When you come together at the table, examine yourself. Look all three ways — up, down and around. It’s the sign of the cross.
For more about communion see: