Regardless of the Christian tradition from which you originate, we have all inherited a beautiful gift full of meaningful symbolism. Some Christians prefer to shy away from terms like sacraments, ordinances or even traditions and yet what we practice communally in the form of food and drink is a loving rite, a habitual confession. We confess primarily to God, then to ourselves, to one another and ultimately to the world. If we distill our purpose down for gathering on any given Sunday, it is to remember collectively.
The Lord’s Supper. Communion. The Eucharist. I am reminded of the beautiful, classic hymn, so heavy with significance.
By Christ redeemed, in Christ restored,
We keep the Supper of the Word,
And show the death of our dear Lord,
Until He come.
His body given in our stead
Is seen in this memorial bread,
And as we drink we see the blood,
Until He come.
And thus that dark betrayal night
With the last advent we unite,
By one bright chain of loving rite,
Until He come.
Throughout the world, across varying traditions, from time past until now, stretching into the future, we are tethered together with Christ who holds firmly to the chain of our weekly confessions. Not only are we united to Him whom we faithfully remember, but also to those who are eagerly remembering. When I break the bread and sip the juice, I do so confessing my unity with Christians both individually and collectively in Serbia, Croatia, Honduras, Uganda and down the street. Because we are still in the process of remembering His death, His sacrifice, His resurrection, His grace, I eat and drink with the apostle Peter, with the church in ancient Ephesus, with President Lincoln, with Martin Luther King Jr. and with my grandmother.
We participate in a rite with beginning and end, from the time He broke the bread and poured the wine and passed it to His disciples “until He come.” Christ is the past, present and future Savior. As host, He prepared the Supper, as our brother and friend He partakes with us in His Father’s kingdom and as triumphant Lord, He will pull us all back together with the “bright chain of loving rite.”
In the past, I have received the Lord’s Supper in a room so crowded that communion servers weren’t possible––we shared it hand to hand. A friend remembers Sundays far away, where they would dance toward the bread and cup. Some receive it somberly, some joyously. The first Supper included lamb and bitter herbs. Others barely taste a fleck of a cracker and diluted grape juice. Others drink wine. We all remember. We confess. He is coming and He is binding us all together. The one bright chain which unifies us all is Christ Himself. The communion we share is first with Him, and then with one another. For in a moment, this loving rite brings us fully present before the throne while we perceive the world in mere flickering shadows––and it keeps us coming back to Him and each other.
Each Sunday we proclaim to those seated next to us and to those across the globe that He is present. He is coming. And it is true. And each Sunday we proclaim to those who have not yet joined the table, “We are here. He has come.”
The beauty of our gathering is because we belong to Christ. His church is timeless, immutable, catholic, unified. In no other time and place are we more united, with no differentiations, than when we are served the body and blood of Jesus. It is through death that we are accepted, through both His and our own in baptism. We sit (or stand, or kneel or dance) to confess we have nothing but have been given everything through the continual cleansing, unifying rite of the Eucharist. It is through grace alone that we partake and for gratefulness, above all else, that we gather.
April Bumgardner is a mom of three boys, two of whom she currently homeschools. Generally, it seems there are more than three, but she has counted several times, and there really are just the three. She has been married to William since 1996. So far, it’s going fairly well.
April was raised in Phoenix, Arizona in a strong, Christian home. She received her B.A. in Russian from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas, and her MPhil in Slavonic Studies from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.
Her favorite Bible verses tend to be about rest and the hope of heaven. When she was little, however, her favorite was Daniel 1:4 when Daniel and his friends were taught “the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.” Perhaps because this sounded so exciting, she has lived in Belgrade, Serbia; Vienna, Austria; Sendai, Japan, and Glasgow, Scotland. None of these places actually speak Chaldean, but she did learn to speak Serbian pretty well.
April loves drinking coffee, reading, and sautéing garlic. She inconsistently maintains a personal blog on parenting, educating through good books, and on matters of faith.
She believes narratives, and stories of all kinds, offer the most profound avenue by which to learn and enjoy God’s truths.
April and her family have been happily involved at North Central since 2012.