by Jeff Pontious, special contributor
In the last month or so, following the Church calendar like we do, I have been thinking a lot about communion. From the Thursday night in the upper room, to the road to Emmaus, the gospel writers put a big emphasis on the breaking of the bread at the table.
So, I reached back into the deep recesses of my fading memory, and thought back to my confirmation days, where it turns out that it is actually apparently possible to retain pieces of information (Thanks pastors Egertson, Christiansen, and Koenig!). As I think back to my Lutheran learnin’, my recollection was that when it came to explaining how Lutherans were different from other Christians, it usually went something like this: “Well, the Catholics are over there, and most of the rest of the Protestants are over there, but we are sort of in between right here.” Kind of the Goldilocks position if you will.
And so it was when it comes to communion (one of the many names of this meal, but we will get to that later). As explained by the patient Pastors to the squirrelly Jr Highers (an ancient term for middle schoolers), our teaching was that the Catholics believed the bread and wine turned into the body and blood of Christ, and a lot of other Protestants just said it was bread and wine to do in remembrance. But, the Lutherans held neither of those positions, or perhaps both, when we said the meal is both bread and wine along with the body and blood of Christ really present in these otherwise foody elements. At the same time! Analogies for mystical theological concepts always break down, but to me, it’s sort of like Shimmer from super old Saturday Night Live: https://screen.yahoo.com/shimmer-floor-wax-000000185.html.
Now that I am more of a grown up, for more edification, I then went to what we call “Our source and norm for faith” – Wikipedia. Mostly what I then discovered is a lot of vocabulary words. First is the various names ascribed to communion: Communion, The Lord’s table, Eucharist, Leg Stretching time after a long sermon, etc.
Then, the terminology gets real serious when trying to describe the way people understand what is going on: ”Transubstantiation”, “Consubstantiation”, and the one term we Lutherans landed on: “Sacramental Union”. Putting English words to describe concepts that are by nature mysterious can’t really do the Sacrament justice, and I think high falutin’ theologians tend to really split hairs in the way they go about describing what is going on. They get into a lot of semantics that most normal pew sitting folks can’t always make heads or tails of.
But here’s what I am pretty sure of: Jesus is in there. It’s weird. It’s mysterious. It is hard to describe. But you see in the Gospels, especially during and after the Passion, and then in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, that this IS important. It’s more than just a meal. The scriptures are pretty explicit. So, sorry all you folks who do it once a quarter, and especially sorry for those who use only grape juice. It’s bread and wine, AND Jesus Christ himself. Real presence is what we call it. It’s the best part of every Sunday. Even better than sleeping in.
In my humble opinion (with a few laughs thrown in),