Growing up in a conservative Christian family with a father as my preacher, it was our practice to regularly celebrate the Christian tradition of communion within our worshipping congregation. It was an honored experience filled with meaning, coming from a strong sense of obedience to God’s instruction to his church.
As I grew up, left home for college, was introduced to and intrigued by The Salvation Army and subsequently responded to God’s call for soldiership and then officership, a question concerned my father about our organizational obedience to God’s instructions to ‘do this in remembrance of me’.
“Son, how do you handle the direct organizational disobedience to Christ’s commands and still assure me that you are following God’s leading? How could God call you into an organization that is disobedient to his directive to his church?” was the gist of the questioning inquiry.
With the assurance that I knew I was following God’s leading into the Army, this confusion over the obedience issue to the direct instruction of God in the observance of communion was something that God was to have to speak to directly. I knew he called me into this Army. Yet the question remained, how could he do that if that to which he called me had at its heart disobedience?
Let’s push the fast forward button to 35 years later. It is Christmas day and the extended family is gathered for the first time in years around my family table. As we sit down to eat, we pause and I, now a senior field officer with more gray matter on the outside of my face than in my head anymore, begin the meal in quietness as we stop to thank God for his great gift of love, Jesus.
In that quietness I explain that in the Army we believe this is the time, the occasion, and the place for remembrance and celebration together, remembrance of what God has done for us his children, and celebration as part of the body of Christ. This is the time for true communion!
My father, in full agreement, then leads the family in recognizing that as we share the cup (today it is iced tea for all) we remember the blood that Christ our messiah was called to and readily gave so that we could live in this positive relationship with God through him. We pray together declaring to God and to one another that in the midst of family celebration and love together we remember with gratitude and awe the great love of our Heavenly Father for the birth of his son. Following our united prayer together, Dad then encourages us to continue to remember the great gift of the Son as he allowed his body to be broken for us, symbolized by the bread of the day, the great feast prepared with love for all those around that table.
Now, that is true Christian, true Salvationist communion! It guides and guards our conversation, focuses our celebration, and cements us in eternal values. What a privilege we have to so celebrate! Let us do so in our common meals together, around our family tables, and around tables of the shared family of the corps together.
Our privilege was recently brought to light in rereading Shaw Clifton’s book, Who are these Salvationists? An analysis for the 21st Century and a review of the findings of the International Spiritual Life Commission report, particularly point 7: “The Salvation Army rejoices in its freedom to celebrate Christ’s real presence at all meals and in all meetings …” and point 8: “Salvationists are encouraged to use the love feast and develop creative means of hallowing meals in home and corps with remembrance of the Lord’s sacrificial love.”
This is communion in the life of a Salvationist family together!