When you’re too sick to take communion

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in Church with my best friend. We had gone out to breakfast together, and I was having a really good day. As soon as they began passing out Communion trays, I grabbed her arm and whispered, “I can take communion today!”

To most, this may seem like the oddest sentence. But I suffer from a chronic illness called Gastroparesis, which causes chronic nausea. I have battled these symptoms for years, and have found that I go through ups and downs with my illness. Over the past year, my symptoms have been worse than normal, which has made even getting out of bed difficult during some mornings. There were days I couldn’t make it to Church, and on the few I could go, I rarely felt well enough to eat. See, part of Gastroparesis is choosing activities over food. Even something as small as Communion was a difficult choice.

It took my struggle with Gastroparesis to understand the importance of communion. I grew up in a church that took communion every week. I never had my first communion celebration; I don’t even remember where or when I first took communion. No one ever told me how I should take communion. I knew it was symbolic of the Last Supper. I knew the bread and wine/grape juice represented Christ’s body and blood. But I never stopped to consider what communion meant to me until there were days when I couldn’t take communion.

Communion isn’t about the grape juice or the bread. It’s about Christ’s sacrifice for us.

Over the course of my time running this blog, this questions is, perhaps, the most-asked question I’ve received. It is something I have personally wrestled with during my years of Gastroparesis living, and it is a topic near to my heart. As we dive into scripture today, I want you to consider this: communion isn’t about the grape juice or the bread. It’s about Christ’s sacrifice for us.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians:

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Communion is more than just a tradition on a Sunday morning. It is about the sacrificial life God gave for us to have eternal life with him. It shouldn’t be taken lightly, either. Going on in verse 27, Paul issues this warning against taking communion solely as a tradition:

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.

1 Corinthians 11:27-29

Communion is far less about eating the bread and drinking the grape juice, and far more about bearing our sins before the Lord. It is about declaring our gratefulness to God that He was willing to come to earth and die for our sins. It is admitting our shortcomings and wrongdoings, and expressing never ending gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice.

Over the past year, I have strived to take communion at least once a month. But even on the days when it’s a struggle between attending Church and taking communion, I sit in the pews during communion time and give thanks to God for all He has given us. The bread and the grape juice were never supposed to be the center of communion; they were meant to be reminders of God’s outpouring of sacrificial love for us.

If you’re too sick to take communion, remember that giving thanks to God is far more important than drinking half a sip of grape juice on a Sunday morning. I always strive to take communion once a month (or, during long flares, once every other month). But communion isn’t something that Christ said we had to do weekly for salvation.

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