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The Sacrament of Holy Communion: Christ for the Church, and the Church for the World

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INTRODUCTION

The World Federation of Chinese Methodist Churches (WFCMC) has recently created a pamphlet to educate and inspire churches to approach the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion with a deeper understanding and significance.

As I delved into the enlightening content of the pamphlet concerning Holy Communion, it immediately reminded me of Alexander Schmemann’s renowned work, For the Life of the World. In this profound piece, Schmemann dismantles the false divisions between the secular and the sacred, the natural and the supernatural. He invites us to embrace the notion that the Christian life can be lived sacramentally within the fabric of our everyday existence. The sacrament of Holy Communion stands as the pinnacle experience of encountering and enjoying the divine presence of God amid our daily lives, empowering us to live sacramentally for the betterment of the world.

But how do we go about embracing our role as sacraments for the world? I find Henri Nouwen’s insightful concept of being taken, blessed, broken, and given, beautifully depicted in his book Life of the Beloved, to be profoundly helpful in illustrating this idea.

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TAKEN: OUR ENCOUNTER WITH GOD

Henri Nouwen eloquently explains that the act of taking bread at the communion table symbolises our chosenness in Christ. Just as Jesus, the chosen one of God (Jn. 1:33-34), was taken by the Father’s hands as the bread of life, our chosenness is bestowed upon us through our union with Christ (Eph. 1:3-6). This chosenness grants us two profound dimensions of relationships when we participate in Holy Communion.

First and foremost, we encounter God Himself. Through the tangible symbols of bread and cup, Jesus offers us more than a mere reminder of His absence; He invites us to experience His divine and intangible presence in a profound and mysterious way.

Additionally, we encounter our spiritual family. As God has chosen us in Christ to be part of His family, it is only natural that we celebrate our chosenness together. The act of taking the bread is not an individualistic endeavour; rather, it is a communal act that unites us as the body of Christ. This serves as a reminder of our shared journey and emphasises the significance of fellowship and love among fellow children of God.

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BLESSEDNESS: OUR FORMATION INTO CHRISTLIKENESS

John Wesley aptly describes Holy Communion as the “grand channel” through which God blesses His children. As the bread and wine are blessed through consecration and prayer, these elements become sacraments of divine grace and spiritual nourishment. Through this act of blessing, we are enabled to perceive these ordinary elements as sacred symbols, which convey God’s blessings of faith, conviction, healing, and conversion.

While each of these blessings holds its own significance, they are collectively known as blessings because they bring us closer to becoming more human, Christlike, and aligned with the image of God. The blessedness of Holy Communion is, therefore, more than a mere ritual; it is a transformative moment of spiritual formation, an act of divine discipleship, and a conduit through which God’s grace flows into the souls of all His beloved children.

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BROKEN AND GIVEN: OUR MISSION TO THE WORLD

The breaking of bread holds deep symbolic meaning as it represents Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for the redemption of humanity. Just as the bread is broken and given, so was Christ’s body broken for us and given to us. It serves as a poignant reminder of the immeasurable love and selflessness with which He endured brokenness and was given for our salvation. Through His brokenness, Christ accomplished God’s mission of reconciling the heavens and the earth to Himself, and we, in turn, experience this reconciliation as healing, restoration, and the transformative power of Christ in our lives.

As followers of Christ, we are called to go forth and live as sacraments for the world. Holy Communion is not an isolated experience confined within the walls of the church; it propels us to share the love and grace we have received with others. While it may be tempting to bless the world solely from a position of abundance, Holy Communion offers us a Christlike alternative—to bless the world through our brokenness. Our imperfect yet sacrificial lives become living testimonies of Christ’s presence and transformative power. We become vessels of His love, compassion, and hope, bringing illumination to a world in need.

Let us wholeheartedly embrace the encounter, formation, and missional power inherent in this sacrament, carrying its message of love, healing, and redemption into every aspect of our lives.

CONCLUSION

The pamphlet produced by WFCMC visually captures the essence of these four steps of Holy Communion, serving as a reminder of the profound journey we embark on every time we participate in this sacrament. May this valuable resource ignite within us a renewed sense of reverence and awe every time we approach Holy Communion. Let us wholeheartedly embrace the encounter, formation, and missional power inherent in this sacrament, carrying its message of love, healing, and redemption into every aspect of our lives. By doing so, we transcend the perceived division between the sacred and secular, becoming living sacraments – channels through which God’s grace and transformative power flow in the world.

Just as Jesus, the Bread of Life, was God’s grace and mercy to us through His own journey of being taken, blessed, broken, and given, we, united with Christ, have the extraordinary privilege of being God’s grace and mercy to the world when we are taken, blessed, broken, and given. As we partake in Holy Communion, may we, chosen by the Father, go forth at its conclusion, empowered by the blessings of the Spirit, ready to be broken and given to the world, following in the likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ.



Rev Jasper Ngoh
Member, CAC Board of Worship and Music
Associate Pastor, Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church


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