Our tendency is to think about baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the Sunday assembly primarily as commands we obey. These are the things we do. And we have to do them exactly right. But we also tend to think about these sacraments in individualistic terms. Our default is to view these as personal¬† and individual. This is about God and me. I am baptized by immersion for the forgiveness of my sins. I take the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week in a manner that pleases God. I go to church every time the doors are open. Individualistic obedience to God’s commands.

But all three of these sacraments are actually communal in nature. These are communal moments, first, because they happen when we’re all together. Baptism is not a private thing, it’s a very public declaration of the lordship of Christ and a pledge of allegiance to Jesus as Lord in front of and with the community of faith. The worship assembly is not an individual experience, it involves all of us together. And the communion meal is not about individual introspection, it’s about, well, communion.

If the Gospel is that by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus we are totally forgiven of all our sins and are completely cleansed and holy and able to come right into the direct presence of God; that we have a righteous relationship now with God and with one another; that we are united with Christ and united with one another in Christ; where do we experience that? How does that become real for us? Where do we feel it?

At the table. We experience the Gospel around the table. The meal makes it real.

“Is not the cup of thanksgiving (eucharist) for which we give thanks (eucharist) a participation (koinonia) in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation (koinonia) in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” ~1 Corinthians 10:16-17

Let’s remember our big picture understandings of the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is eating and drinking a meal with God. That’s what God wants with us, that’s his goal, that’s what our salvation is all about: God and eating and drinking a communal meal with us. Why? Because sharing a meal together is an experience of and an expression of relationship. Sitting down together at a meal means you’ve got things in common. There are no barriers between you, no divisions. There’s acceptance and belonging and trust and friendship around a table. When we’re all dipping our chips into the same bowl of salsa, it means all the walls are down. You’re experiencing community.

The meal makes it real.

The blood of Christ is what makes us righteous and clean. When we drink the cup together, we participate in those benefits. Eating the bread together is a communion or participation in the unity we share in Christ. One loaf means we are one body. The people of Israel eat the sacrifices and so receive the benefits of forgiveness and community that are achieved by the sacrifice at the altar. We eat and drink the Lord’s Meal and we receive the gifts of forgiveness and holy community that are achieved at the cross (1 Corinthians 10:18).

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” ~1 Corinthians 12:12-13

By faith, our baptisms unite us as one people in Christ. No divisions. No differences, No distinctions. We are one body. And we experience that around the table. The peace. The reconciliation. The community with God and one another. You want to feel like you really belong? You sit down to a meal with your family. The meal makes it real.