As more local churches are unable to meet physically during this time of pestilence, the Lord’s Supper must not be neglected. This isn’t a matter of legalism. The Lord’s Supper is a privilege by which we continue to honor the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:29), announce his death until he comes again (1 Corinthians 11:26), and confirm the covenant between God and his people (Mark 26:28).
By sharing my own testimony here regarding taking communion at home on my own, I hope to encourage those with food sensitivities (and anyone without access to the food and drink items typically used for communion) as they make plans for taking communion without traditional elements. I also hope to encourage Christ-followers around the world to participate in the Lord’s Supper by observing it in their homes while they are not able to gather with their local church bodies.
Years ago, when I first knew that my body was sensitive to all grains, I began carrying a small piece of some other food besides bread with me to church for the communion service. And later, when I knew that my body was sensitive to grape juice, I began also taking a small bottle of water with me to church for the communion service.
It felt very cruel to me that one of the very things for which I needed healing should, in addition to the other problems it caused, also prevent me from participating in the remembrance of Christ’s body, broken for me, and his blood, poured out for me. And this was intended by the Enemy as a cruelty. So I refused to let it keep me from taking communion.
Later, when worsening environmental sensitivities to chemicals in the air meant I could no longer be in a church building at all, I betook myself home, where worship, prayer, meditation, sermons, music, and fellowship were all accomplished in other ways than being in a perfume cloud. It was about at that same time that my medical treatment required a type of strict rotation diet, such that those items I had previously used for communion were rarely, if ever, options for me to ingest on a Sunday morning. Even at those extremely rare times when an online church gave notice ahead of time that a communion service would be offered, I was so hard-pressed to figure out what food I could use on the particular day and time proposed, that I finally shelved the problem.
It was a problem.
In late 2018 and early 2019, I heard two sisters grounded in the Christian faith, Susie Larson and Joni Eareckson Tada, each make comments (online) about how vital communion was to them and to their health (one, healing from chronic Lyme disease and the other, from cancer), and how they both regularly took communion at home as a life-giving spiritual practice. I believed them. And I wanted to do it. But I just couldn’t push through the obstacles to figure out how.
In addition to doubt as to whether water and whatever else I might be able to figure out to use (and I hadn’t figured out anything at that point) could actually be the Lord’s Supper, I was a little concerned about somehow doing the whole thing wrong, and creating some negative spiritual consequences for myself that would be worse than not taking communion at all. So I continued to shelve the problem.
After another year had gone by, I read teaching from another Christian sister, Agnes Sanford, (in her excellent book Behold Your God), on the life that comes from the Lord’s Supper. I had known for a while that by not taking communion I was missing out on something vital—something both spiritual and physical—but in reading her teaching, I finally understood just how vital.
It really was the last straw. I needed to participate in communion.
I gathered some food items to use for the purpose, hoping that my body would be able to handle them in the extremely small amounts that would be used. I did not wait for a church to offer an online communion service; my experience had proven that the wait could be months or years. I looked up the Scriptures that recorded Jesus’s institution of the practice and read them (see Matthew 26:26-29 and Luke 22:15-20). I examined my heart as 1 Corinthians 11:26-31 indicates must be done (this is a very freeing spiritual practice). I asked God to bless the food, as Jesus had taken the bread and blessed it (1 Corinthians 11:24). I gave thanks for it as Jesus had done (Luke 22:17, 19). I separated pieces of the solid food as Jesus had broken the bread (Luke 22:19). And at my table, in my home, I remembered Christ as I ate the broken pieces and drank the liquid.
Although my physical body repeatedly reacted negatively to several of the various foods I tried using for communion over a period of several weeks, I wasn’t giving up this time. I was persistent, finally consulting with my medical practitioner for assistance, until I had something liquid and something solid that I could safely use for communion elements.
The liquid I now use for communion bears little resemblance to the cup of wine that Jesus passed to his disciples; and the solid food item, not much resemblance to the unleavened bread of the Passover meal that Jesus broke that night.
But after far too long of not taking communion, and in faith that God does not want me to be left out of this vital remembrance of Christ, I focus not on the molecular makeup of the substances I put in my mouth, but on the spiritual reality of this act. I focus on the spiritual examination that is preparation for communion (see 1 Corinthians 11:26-31), and on the meaning and reality of the Lord’s Supper in the spiritual and physical realms (see 1 Corinthians 11:26, 29; Mark 26:28).
Our approach to communion is a serious matter, as Scripture teaches (1 Corinthians 11:26-31), so no one should take part in it without honoring the body of Christ. But missing out on communion is also serious. This is an area where we must each ask for and apply the wisdom and discernment God gives us (James 1:5), so that we continue to honor the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:29), announce his death until he comes again (1 Corinthians 11:26), and confirm the covenant between God and his people (Mark 26:28).
For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again. So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgement upon yourself. This is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died. But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way.
1 Corinthians 11:26-31 (NLT)
He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it into pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you.”
Luke 22:15-20 (NLT)
As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.”
And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many. Mark my words—I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.”
Matthew 26:26-29 (NLT)
AmyLu Riley is the author of Faith with Grit for the Not-Yet Healed and the soon-to-be-released Faith with Wings (coming April 2020). You’re invited to join her email community, On Freedom, Health, and Wholeness, at amylu-riley.com/subscribe.