Regarding the Sacrament of Holy Communion/Eucharist
The United Church of Christ in Simi Valley (2014)
In addition to the two sacraments Baptism and Holy Communion, we teach that all of life is sacramental. God is present in all things, but no one thing is God. Some would describe this as a panentheistic approach to theology. Every Sunday with our children, we sing: “The Spirit in Me greets the Spirit in You” By this we understand that we are all divine in nature as well as human. In the manner of Jesus, we seek to be Icons of God’s Generosity. We strive to have our lives be windows into divine love, a love that seeks the well-being of all creation. Understood this way, we seek communal salvation not individual salvation. No one is excluded from God’s love! Period!
While some seek salvation for themselves in a heavenly afterlife; we seek salvation for all through acts of justice in this life. The word salvation in both the Greek and Hebrew language of Scripture is rooted in healing and well-being in this life. What lies beyond death, none of us knows for certain. Thus we follow Jesus’ advice to “be not anxious” and trust that all will be well, in this life and whatever is to come.
This congregation holds that all may come to the Communion Table, whether baptized or not. We also encourage children to attend, but honor the wishes of parents if they choose otherwise. No one is excluded regardless of their faith expression. The following invitation conveys how we view this celebration:
“It is time to let the Spirit have its way with us. This table is set, for sinners, lovers, dancers, and dreamers, the dying, divorced, suffering, and fearful. All who are weary and heavy laden, all who work for justice, all who seek resurrection. Come. Be not afraid, for hope is real, love is true, and God is good. Come, let us keep the feast!”
We teach that Holy Communion is not a sacrifice (Roman Catholic view), or a proclamation of Jesus’ sacrifice “once for all” (Protestant Reformation view based on Hebrews 10:8). We believe we are saved by Jesus’ life and teachings not his death; and that we honor the expansive table fellowship of Jesus. Jesus was accused of being a glutton and drunkard and a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ (Matthew 11:9) To those who say, Jesus ate with all manner of sinners, we say, “guilty as charged” and thank God! Even though the early church fathers overturned Jesus’ table fellowship and ex-communicated sinners—they did not allow them to share in Holy Communion—Jesus did otherwise and so do we. We do not use the language of sin, but understand that all human beings are imperfect. Through the grace of acceptance received when we participate in Holy Communion, all of us open ourselves to be better human beings and better Christians. After receiving Communion, we offer words of thanksgiving much like this prayer.
Thanks be to you, O God, for your presence, your loving kindness and your steadfast love. May the blessings of this table strengthen our faith, widen our mercy, deepen our wisdom, and encourage us to walk in the ways of peace with passion and purpose. In the power of your embodied Spirit and the grace of Jesus, we pray. Amen.
We celebrate the living presence of God and the resurrected Christ. Our celebration of Communion is not a memorial but a fully participatory expression of divine light and love—a force field of grace that transforms our hearts and minds if we are open to becoming more fully human. To partake of the bread of life and the cup of blessing in fellowship with one another is to commune with all of life and all that is holy. For this we truly say: “Thanks be to God!”