Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:16-17

Communion Defines Community

Who shares your meals with you? Are these people important to you? Why or why not?

Popular Translation

16 When we eat the Lord’s Supper, we bless God for a cup of wine. Doesn’t this cup share in the blood of Christ? At the Lord’s Supper, we also break and share a loaf of bread. Doesn’t the bread share in the body of Christ? 17 Even though there are many of us, we are one body, just like there is only one loaf of bread. For we all share from that same bread.

Literal Translation

16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not communion with the blood of CHRIST? The bread that we break, is it not a communion with the body of CHRIST? 17 Because one is the (loaf of) bread, (we) the many are one body, for all (of us) share in the one (loaf) of bread.

10:16 “is it not communion with the blood of Christ?” The word “communion” in Greek is “koinonia,” a term that described community and fellowship. Koinonia meant an allegiance of two or more people with a common purpose; meal association defined the membership of the koinonia. In the context that surround these verses, Paul was concerned about Christians eating meat sacrificed to idols; pagan neighbors would invite Christians to banquets at temples where such meat was shared in a meal of communion. Paul argued against accepting such invitations, for participation in the meal meant a communion with the idol. How could someone claim to be a Christian when he was present at such a banquet? Did he worship Christ or the idol? Certainly scandal would follow.

Communion defines community. That statement might seem obvious, even trite, like Gertrude Stein’s famous phrase: “A rose is a rose is a rose.” But, because it is so obvious, its impact is overlooked. Humans define their social worlds with meals. Table mates are usually family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. These are people who share something in common: blood relations, geographic proximity, job environments, and shared values. Sometimes, the strongest bonds for meal fellowship transcend these factors. Sometimes, these bonds are far greater than the people involved.

Eucharist is a case in point. Christ defined his community at a simple meal; he defined it with his self-giving. His Body was himself and his Blood was his life. When believers share the meal, they become one with Christ. The loaf of bread, the Body of Christ, is the focal point. Those who eat the bread become one with the Body. Communion with the bread defines the community as the Body of Christ. The Church, then, is the people who are made one in the Body of Christ and share the life of Christ in common.

When Christ shared himself with us, he molded us into himself. Christ’s communion defines us as part of his community.

How important is Communion to you? Who shares Communion with you? How important are these people to you? Why or why not?