We all seek it, in our own way, and, whether we admit it or not, we all need it!
Sometimes; we can try to do without it for a time, if not for good, but we always end up communing, either with some 'thing', or with some 'one', and that's not always good!
God said ( Genesis 2:18 ) that 'it is not good that the man should be alone'. He made man for communion. It is good, sometimes, just to go away by yourself and 'commune with nature', or it can be refreshing to spend some time 'alone with God', but for the most part; man craves communion, and if he isn't communing with the good; the opposite is usually true, we tend to commune with the bad! ( been there, done that, so I can speak from experience )
When one hears the word 'communion'; we most often think, in 'Christian circles', anyway, of the Communion that they share with others in the Body of Christ, partaking of the wine ( or grape juice ) and bread, whether they do it as a symbolic remembrance of His sacrifice, or whether they believe they are following Jesus' words in John 6:53; 'unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, you have no life in you'. I remember once, when I told a brother that the church I was attending at the time had 'communion' every Sunday; he, knowing that I meant the fellowship meal we enjoyed every Sunday after worship service, protested, 'but Christ isn't there!' I believe that, as the Church is the Body of Christ, and as per John 14:23; Christ is most definitely there; as He Himself said, 'wherever two or three are gathered in My name, there AM I among them' ( Matthew 18:20 ). Many orthodox Christians seem to have this hang-up when it comes to the use of the word 'communion', and in fact to the practice itself. We have tended, because of this fact, to view our communion within the Body of Christ as simply fellowship, and this misnomer needs to be addressed in the Church!
Why do we have a problem realizing the import, when it comes to communion, of what Jesus said in Matthew 18:20? I have addressed what I believe to be the biggest ‘problem’ that has plagued God’s Church throughout its history; that of ‘A Focus on the Physical’( not a bad thing in and of itself, for as I explained; a secondary focus on the physical is a good, indeed necessary thing ) This is one reason that my brother retorted that ‘Christ isn’t there’; because of the orthodox ( Futurist ) view that, mainly, if not wholly based on Acts 1:11, Jesus remains in His physical Body in some spiritual ( ethereal? ) ‘Heaven’, sitting at the right hand ( again; ethereal? ) of God, from which He will, at some point in our future, ‘come to judge the quick and the dead’. I agree that Jesus has taken up residence in His Body ( John 14:23 ), and that He sits at ‘the right hand of God the Father’, although I believe the Scriptures are very clear about His coming to judge the quick and the dead ( this happened in the 1st century, AD. )
Life, as I’ve tried to point out in a previous article, is a sacrament; when I say that; I mean simply that all of life, everything that we say or do ( not just Sundays, a pagan holyday? ) is to be our worship ( Romans 12 1-5 ), to the glory of God, and for His Kingdom. Traditionally; I believe that too many within the Body of Christ, ad this includes a great many in the institutional church, have viewed the Church as the church building, failing to realize, seemingly, that God’s Church, the Body of Christ, is made up of His people ( it’s not some dumb, inanimate idol, I mean building )! To be fair; when confronted with a question, such as, ‘is the Church God’s people, or the building that they worship in?’, the answer would likely be a quick, ‘well, God’s people, of course!’. I’m afraid, though, that this ready answer too often belies their actions. Too many pastors today look at their congregation as their church, failing to see the Church as One Body, and that of Christ, belonging not to any certain group of people ( clique’ ) within a certain geographical location or area.
Denominations can be a good thing, and in fact, could almost be said to be necessary; they are a more or less easy way of defining where a group or individual is coming from theologically ( basically; what he/she believes ). I have no problem with people believing differently, we are all at different points and stages, in the development of our relationship with our Creator ( and each other ); the problem I have with ‘denominations’ is that they often feel that Truth is theirs alone; they’re the only ones that believe correctly ( orthodoxically ), and therefore, communion within the Body is hardly, if ever, even thought of, much less practiced: sure, within their own congregation, on Sundays and maybe Wednesday evenings, possibly even within their own denominational community, for a ‘church picnic’, or some such event. Again, to be fair; not all denominational, institutional churches act this way; there are those who do, in action anyway, if not in their theology, view themselves as just a small part of the Body, and commune with other members of that Body, even though they may believe somewhat differently, and belong to a different denomination, and gather on a certain day of the week to worship corporately.
For far too long though, and in too many churches, the modus operandi has been to gather for that form of worship on Sundays ( sometimes twice ) and maybe for a middle-of-the-week ‘service’, and dedicate the rest of the week to ‘work’ ( this could open up another ‘can of worms ) so that we can support ourselves, our families, and pay our tithes to whatever ‘church’ we’re attending at the time. If we see another ‘church’ member outside the sacred walls that we enter at those certain times; great: if we have time, maybe we’ll say ‘hi’, or even sit down for a bit of ‘fellowship’. Typically, this ‘fellowship’ is not viewed as ‘communion’; that is reserved for some ‘sacred ( almost mystical ) communion’, a sharing of little thimbles full of grape juice, or wine, and a little egg-carton wafer ( as I call’em ), or piece of bread, with heads solemnly bowed, and Jesus words ( usually quoted from I Corinthians 11 ) somberly spoken over them. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t have a problem with this practice, in fact, the symbolism of the whole ‘institution’ is a good reminder of what Jesus words in John 6:53 mean: personally, I view it, as with Sunday worship, as a kind of ‘closer communion’ with other members of the Body, whether or not they believe like I do. It is not, however, and we all need to really remember this, the only, and best, form of communion; that is with each other, within the Body of Christ, and as the Body of Christ, whether or not we share denominational affiliation, similar eschatological beliefs, or even hold the same views on communion!
In holy communion with the Body,
Charles Haddon Shank