I have a very distinct memory of my first communion. I was with my mom, at her church, and I was around 7 or 8 years old. We were a small congregation, and we stood in a circle. In the center were perfectly square pieces of white bread and what smelled to be Welch’s grape juice. This was unfamiliar yet familiar. At my dad’s church, a Catholic church, people went up for what looked like a little wafer and some wine, and I figured this must be some sort of toned down version of that. The pastor looked somber, and told us that if we took this bread and juice and we weren’t right with God, or with each other, it would be like asking for our own death. Being 8 and not having yet mastered the art of simile, I began to panic. I knew I had some sin deep down in my heart that was unresolved, I probably wasn’t right with all my fellow church members, so clearly, I was about to participate in my own demise. I started backing away from the circle but quickly felt a jab in my ribs which was always my mom’s signal to stop moving. Since this was life or death, I ignored it and walked away, only to have my arm yanked by my mom, planting me firmly in this death circle. Why was everybody so calm? Was everyone really that holy? I’m sure if I would have started crying or made some kind of fuss I could have gotten out of the death ritual but being a child who was taught above all else to “behave myself” in public I took the bread and the cup. I’m assuming I came to some sort of acceptance of my fate. Because I feared my mother, and probably because of Jesus, I was going to die an early death. I remember assuming this was going to work like some kind of poison, so I went to the women’s restroom where there was a lounge area, as I figured I may as well be comfortable, and I lay back on the couch in anticipation of passing from this world to the next. But nothing happened. I was fine. My mom came looking for me, admonishing me for not being in church. I tried to explain my rationale for what looked like napping, but she told me to stop being so dramatic.
So where did this come from, this rigid, dogmatic view of the Lord’s Supper? From Paul, of course. First Corinthians 11:26-32. Paul has just finished talking about head coverings. He’s just about to talk about speaking in tongues. It should also be noted that Paul has also said there is no condemnation in those who are in Christ Jesus, yet he seems to put that on the shelf for a moment to talk about condemnation. Paul is really “in his feelings” here. He states, “ Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For all who eat and drink[h] without discerning the body,[i] eat and drink judgment against themselves. 30 For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.[j] 31 But if we judged ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined[k] so that we may not be condemned along with the world.”
- 1 Corinthians 11:17 - 32
- John 6:48
- John 6:51 - 54