Holy Communion is a ritual that we practice in worship and as a community of faith in Jesus Christ whenever we break bread together.
The table of Holy Communion is Christ’s table, not the table of The United Methodist Church or of the local congregation. The table is open to anyone who seeks to respond to Christ’s love and to lead a new life of peace and love, as the invitation to the table says.
Our Book of Worship says, “All who intend to lead a Christian life, together with their children, are invited to receive the bread and cup. We have no tradition of refusing any who present themselves desiring to receive” (page 29). This statement means that in practice there are few, if any, circumstances in which a United Methodist pastor would refuse to serve the elements of Holy Communion to a person who comes forward to receive.
By Water and the Spirit affirms: “Because the table at which we gather belongs to the Lord, it should be open to all who respond to Christ’s love, regardless of age or church membership. The Wesleyan tradition has always recognized that Holy Communion may be an occasion for the reception of converting, justifying, and sanctifying grace.”
(REF The United Methodist Book of Worship. Copyright © 1992 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.)
Communion is not about the type of bread or the frequency or the correctness of words, it is about remembering who God is and who we are in God, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Why do United Methodists call this sharing of bread and cup by different names, such as Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, and Eucharist?
Each of these names is taken from the New Testament and highlights certain facets of this sacrament’s many meanings. Calling it the Lord’s Supper reminds us that it is a meal instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ and hosted by him at his table whenever it takes place. Calling it Holy Communion reminds us that it is an act of the most holy and intimate sharing, making us one with Jesus Christ and part of his body, the church. Calling it the Eucharist, a term taken from the New Testament Greek word meaning thanksgiving, reminds us that giving thanks to God for all that God has done is an essential part of the meal. By using different names we acknowledge that no single name can contain the rich wealth of meanings in this sacred act.
What do United Methodists mean when they call this act a sacrament?
Our Confession of Faith states: “We believe the sacraments, ordained by Christ, are symbols and pledges of the Christian’s profession and of God’s love toward us. They are means of grace by which God works invisibly in us, quickening [bringing to life], strengthening and confirming our faith in him. Two Sacraments are ordained by Christ our Lord, namely Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.” The term is taken from the Latin sacramentum, which was a Roman soldier’s pledge of allegiance. A sacrament is God‘s pledge of allegiance [love and faithfulness] to us, and our answering pledge of allegiance to God.
Do United Methodists believe that the bread and wine physically or chemically change into Christ’s flesh and blood in this sacrament?
No, we believe that the change is spiritual. They signify the body and blood of Christ for us, helping us to be Christ’s body in the world today, redeemed by Christ’s blood. We pray over the bread and the cup that they may make us one with Christ, “one with each other, and one in service to all the world.”
I am a Christian, but not a United Methodist. Am I invited to receive Communion in a United Methodist church?
Yes indeed. It is the Lord’s Supper, not ours, and it is Christ who invites you. As our ritual puts it: “Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another.” We do not refuse any who present themselves desiring to receive. Whether you should receive Communion with us is between you and God.
I do not wish to receive Communion because doing so would be disloyal to my religion or my denomination. May I attend a United Methodist Communion service and not receive Communion?
Yes indeed. We do not want anyone to feel unwelcome because, for whatever reason, they do not choose to receive Communion. Simply remain seated when others go forward, or pass the bread and cup along if they are passed to you, and no one will question what you do.
Should I receive Communion if I feel unworthy?
Two thousand years ago Jesus ate with sinners and those whom others scorned. He still does. None of us is worthy, except by God’s grace. Thank God we don’t have to earn worth in God’s eyes by our goodness or our faith. Your sacred worth, and ours, is God’s free gift. No matter what you have done or what your present condition, if you want Christ in your life you are welcome at his table. Communion provides the opportunity for you to confess your sins, to receive forgiveness, and to indicate your intention to lead a new life.
May young children receive Communion?
Certainly. As The United Methodist Book of Worship puts it, “All who intend to lead a Christian life, together with their children, are invited to receive the bread and cup.” We remember that when some of Jesus’ disciples tried to keep children away from him he said: “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Mark 10:14 NRSV).
But do young children know what they are doing when they receive Communion?
Do they understand the full meaning of this holy sacrament? No, and neither do any of us. It is a wonderful mystery, and children can sense wonder and mystery. Children cannot understand the full significance of family meals, but we feed them at our family tables and at Christ’s family table. Young children experience being loved by being fed. They sense the difference between being included and excluded at a family meal. They have the faith of a child, appropriate to their stage of development, which Jesus recognized and honored. Indeed, he said to adults: “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:15 NRSV).
May I receive Communion without standing or kneeling?
Certainly. In some United Methodist congregations most persons receive Communion while standing, while in others most receive while kneeling; but you are always welcome to receive while seated. If others are kneeling at the rail, you may remain standing and you will be served. You may also come forward and be seated on the front row, or come forward in your wheelchair, and you will be served. Or you may notify an usher, and someone will come to you and serve you where you are seated.
If someone in my family wishes to receive Communion but cannot come to the church service, can Communion be brought to them?
Certainly. As an extension of the congregation’s celebration of the Lord’s Supper, Communion is brought to persons, wherever they are, who wish it but could not attend the service. This can be done by the pastor or other clergy, or by designated laypersons.
Is Communion possible at weddings, at healing services, or at funerals or memorial services?
Yes. If you wish to arrange this, talk with your pastor.
(REF) Excerpt from United Methodists and Communion: Some Questions & Answers by Hoyt L. Hickman. Copyright © 2001 The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.
Communion is our invitation to sit at the table.
God has secured a place for us at Gods table
What happens at the table?
- As well as
- Making plans, budgets. dreams, accountability, etc
What does it mean to you to be included at God’s table?
[Ask your neighbor to name one thing and allow them to ask you for what it means to you.]
In Genesis: Communion with God is seen as a struggle.
Jacob’s wrestling with God teaches us that persistence in the struggle to hang on to God yields blessing. GEN 32:24-28 (We want the blessing without the struggle: jo’stein)
From Jacob/Israel’s experience we learn:
- If you want to be at the table expect
- Alone : on your own. You can’t struggle in behalf of others
- Wrestle : give and take of position and adjust
- ( told the wreak ring coach that the sport was all fake)
- Endurance through the night, darkness
- The fruit of wrestling is to
- see God,
- know God,
- be named by God,
- blessed and
Reminders of the Struggle become our story to share and retell:
Jacob/Israel’s Hip is a reminder that the struggle is very gift of life and not the measure of our strength.
How have you struggled, wrestled to remain with God?
Where have you fallen away and found your way home?
Paul wishes he could trade places with those who are lost, but it is our charge to bring people to their own journey with God. [Rom 9:4-5]
Through the journey and struggle we are reminded we are ALL:
The reality check Psalm 17:1-7 (Listen to my words, watch my actions, am I wrestling with God or some one else, some things else of just myself? Isa 55:1-5 Struggle for bread or bread of life?
Q: Are we always welcome at the table?
Q: Do we welcome everyone to gather at God’s table?
Q: Are we in fellowship today?
Q: Are we always in Worship, prayer, service?
This is why we return to the table
- In Grace
- In Struggle
- In Promise of Salvation
- So come to the table now.
32:24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”
So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” [NRSV]
Psalm 17:1-7, 15
17:1 Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry; give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit. From you let my vindication come; let your eyes see the right. If you try my heart, if you visit me by night, if you test me, you will find no wickedness in me; my mouth does not transgress. As for what others do, by the word of your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent. My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped. I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me, hear my words. Wondrously show your steadfast love, O savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand.
17:15 As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness. [NRSV]
Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you. [NRSV]
The LORD upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing. The LORD is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of all who fear him; he also hears their cry, and saves them. The LORD watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and all flesh will bless his holy name forever and ever. [NRSV]
They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. [NRSV]