In ancient times, when a relationship had been broken, the offering of a meal was given in order to bring about reconciliation and to restore fellowship. In fact, this was the whole basis for the sacrifices and sin-offerings of the ancient Hebrew Tabernacle and the ancient Hebrew Temple. These sacrifices were simply offerings of food (in a spirit of confession, repentance and forgiveness) in order to restore fellowship with God.
Yes, the ancient offerings of food (especially of meat) were offered to restore table fellowship with God, bringing reconciliation and atonement in relationship to God. But, of course, there is no perfect sin-offering that we could give in order to permanently and everlastingly (once and for all time) restore full fellowship with God.
However, two thousand years ago, there was an offering that God provide to us as a perfect offering to perfectly restore our full table fellowship with God and with one another — it’s the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, given and shed for you and me and all people. Being fully God and fully human at the same time, Jesus was the perfect offering for the sins of the world. He’s the perfect “Lamb of God” (John 1:29) offered as the once and for all time sacred meal of reconciliation, atonement and renewal.
Being fully God, Jesus’ offering to restore us to fellowship with God was the most perfect of offerings. Also, being fully human, Jesus’ offering to restore us to communion with God was truly a real sacrifice on his part. And so, on the night in which he was betrayed, Jesus connected the offering of his body and blood to reconcile us to God with the bread and the wine of his Holy Supper. And Jesus tells us that, as we partake of this bread and wine in remembrance of him, we are sharing in a meal of reconciliation and holy fellowship with God according to his sacrificial offering of his body and blood for this purpose.
So, although God is omnipresent (everywhere present), we believe that Christ is uniquely present for us in the Blessed Sacrament of Holy Communion to continually restore us to fellowship with God and strengthen us in faith, hope and love. In other words, we come to this sacramental meal, over and over again, to keep us in relationship with God and to empower us to love one another and all people as our Lord Jesus loves us.
When we receive the body and blood of Christ in the form of the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper (Holy Communion), we receive the grace of the Holy Spirit of God, making this meal our weekly Pentecost. But Holy Communion is not only for our own spiritual well-being. In fact, the purpose of Holy Communion also has to do with the great Love Commandment of our Lord Jesus.
This is why the Apostle Paul got so upset at the Corinthian Christians who were sharing in the Lord’s Supper (receiving the body and blood of Jesus given in bread and wine) while at the same time they were setting up distinctions and discriminations between one another. Basically, the wealthy congregants were being shown special favor within the Corinthian congregation, while the poor congregants were being marginalized. This outraged Paul, so he writes that we must not receive the bread and wine of Holy Communion while practicing discrimination and partiality within the Body of Christ (the Church).
“For those who eat and drink without discerning the Body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves” (First Corinthians 11:29).
Through the Apostle Paul’s very strong words in First Corinthians 11, we can see the intimate connection between the Lord’s Supper and Jesus’ command to love one another and all people as he loves us. Therefore, the good gifts of God’s Holy Spirit through the Sacrament of the Altar (the Lord’s Supper) are for an inclusive purpose according to God’s all-encompassing love. In other words, Holy Communion is focused outwards as well as inwards.
From Holy Communion we are sent to bear the grace and love of God to all the world around us! Empowered by God’s reconciling love and renewal through Christ’s sacramental presence and offering for sins, we are to go out from this meal of Holy Communion to love and serve one another and all people, just as our Lord Jesus first loved us.