Many Christian churches recognize the Eucharist as a Sacrament that is celebrated in the presence of the community in the context of the worship service. According to Senn (2006), Jesus mandated both Baptism and the Eucharist, and these sacraments “have been performed in expectation of certain promised benefits, specifically the forgiveness of sins, new life, and salvation” (Senn 2006, 31).
The word Eucharist carries many names and meanings. The word Eucharist itself is from the Greek “thanksgiving.” Koinonia, from the Greek, is a word that denotes communion, which implies sharing or participation, while the term the Lord’s Supper brings to mind a lavish feast. Eucharist entails the act of eating and drinking together to commemorate the death and resurrection of Christ (Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (BEM), 1982). Thus the Eucharist may be viewed as the “communion of the faithful,” as they demonstrate oneness with Christ “as brothers and sisters in the one family of God” (BEM 1982, 14).
For me, the Eucharist also symbolizes charity and the eradication of injustice, poverty, racism, brokenness and metaphorical bondage, which plague an entire underclass of people in America. I concur with Wolterstorff (1991) that Christians are responsible for one another, and this shared responsibility is expressed through the Eucharist as an act of “authentic communion.” According to Wolterstorff, justice is present in a society “in which all the weak and voiceless ones have been brought into the community so as to enjoy its goods” (Wolterstorff 1991, 9). If we engage in “authentic communion,” we are sharing our bounty (in the form of a common meal), by bringing into the community the voices of the poor and the weak with full conviction and attention to their needs.
Moreover, I agree with Burkhart (1982), in that communion provides an opportunity for practicing companionship, building relationships, eroding boundaries, interrogating injustice, practicing tolerance, and exhibiting Christ-like behavior. Burkhart notes that sharing a meal in recognition of Christ provides a way for people to taste the future to which they are being drawn. In this view, people “who eat together are, like it or not, somehow bound together” (Burkhart 1982, 93). I believe that the sacrament of the Eucharist nourishes us and strengthens our connections to Christ and to each other. Through the body of Christ, God calls us to promote peace, speak truth to power, liberate the oppressed, care for the poor and comfort those who are troubled.
Burkhart, John E. (1982). Worship. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.
Cone, James. (2005). “Loving God with Our Heart, Soul, and Mind.” In Iva E. Carruthers, Frederick D. Haynes III, and Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. (Eds.), Blow the Trumpet in Zion: Global Vision and Action for the 21st –century Black Church (pp. 59-64). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress Press.
Senn, Frank C. (2006). The People’s Work. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
Thurman, Howard. (2003). Disciplines of the Spirit (10th edition). Richmond, IN: Friends United.
United Church of Christ (UCC). (2007). Baptism: A Practice of Faith in the United Church of Christ. Retrieved 27 November 2007 from http://www.ucc.org /worship/baptism/