Theologically, I understand Holy Communion to be one of the two sacraments outlined by Lutheran doctrine. In a sacrament, the means of grace make use of everyday objects in the conveyance of God’s grace. In baptism, water is used in a symbolic washing, as the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within the one who is baptized. This evokes John the Baptist washing Jesus with water to absolve him of sin, and God revealing Jesus as Son. In communion, bread is broken, wine is poured, and both are blessed and offered to the assembly. This evokes the last supper, where Jesus blessed bread and wine and commanded that this ritual be done in remembrance of him, with Jesus himself embodying God’s grace.
For me, the tangibility of Holy Communion makes it the most physically evocative component of the liturgy, and grants me an overwhelming sensation of connectedness to God. It fascinates me, in that before learning about the means of grace, I felt like God was heeding our request to come down, and it did not make sense to me. Now, I think I more properly understand that God chooses to transmit through bread and wine when properly offered. And while I once thought it the high point of worship, I now see it entwined with Scripture and preaching in proclamation of the Word.
So, I now find myself more fascinated with how other people experience Holy Communion. So often, it seems that people come to the table in what seems to me to be an overly serious or solemn mood. Superficially, one might think we were at a funeral, and not a banquet table, judging from peoples’ expressions and movements. As a superficial observation, I realize that I do not necessarily know others’ internal mood or feelings, so my observation is not necessarily warranted. And I wonder what people do or don’t believe or understand about the ritual act.
When I serve as assisting minister, I feel privileged to help with distribution. As I share bread and wine with the assembly, I want to offer them with a welcoming expression, and I want to speak to people with a joyous tone. As we finish distribution, return the elements to the altar, and cover them, I feel like we have just done a particularly sacred ritual within the framework of the liturgy. I find that I want to express particular reverence as I interact with the elements and communionware.
Ultimately, I would feel a huge letdown if worshiping in a community that did not celebrate Holy Communion at every Sunday service. I can’t imagine why a community would not do this.