The Story of Communion

written by J. A. Hart
A few weeks ago, my wife and I dined with a family we met through mutual friends. After dinner and some Bible reading (1 Kings 3:16-28), the adults sat in the living room to talk, while those under ten ran downstairs to fight each other with homemade weapons that looked eerily similar to the ones I used on my brothers around their age (I can’t lie and say I didn’t want to join them, but alas, adulting and whatnot).

The couple started the after-dinner conversation with some light questions about my wife and I’s individual stories. Their questions surprised me at first, but I warmed up to the vulnerability rather quickly. At some point in the conversation, we landed on my experiences in college.

I attended four colleges in my “university career.” The University of Montana was one of them. Most of the culture at U of M is built upon a foundation of political ideas running back to the earliest “social” philosophers, most notably, Hegel, a german philosopher from the 18th and 19th centuries (I can hear you snoring already). I explained this in a lot more detail and connected my experience to the dark horses rearing their ugly heads in culture today. Suffice it to say, U of M is not a school where the intellect or heart of a Christain can thrive without a constant barrage of ideals antithetical to the Biblical story.

The couple recognized this and asked me, “How were you able to keep your faith amidst that culture and belief? That hasn’t always been our experience with others. Was it your upbringing or your school growing up?”

To my surprise, I knew the answer rather quickly, “Because I’ve encountered God, and I knew those ideals and theories didn’t belong to the intimate heart I’d known. The deep knowledge I’ve received through my relationship with my heavenly Father far surpassed any earthly theory or ideal.”

My response was undoubtedly true, but for some reason, the surprise made me uneasy. And as one thought can lead to a host of others, the quiet surprise beckoned me to look inward, Where have I truly encountered God’s heart lately?

It’s been some time, I thought, Why? What happened?

I inquired further, taking that question to my heavenly Dad. His answer: You’ve forgotten where we commune.

The Story of Communion

The Garden story of Genesis is beautiful. My heart ponders it often. Out of all the details I focus on and hold close, there is one detail my heart needs the most because from it, a whole host of goodness flows.

“And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the human whom he had formed.”

I love this. Imagine the God of the universe on his knees with hands in the dirt, planting oaks, sycamores, larches, hemlocks, apple, lime, and orange trees, raspberry, blackberry, and rose bushes, hydrangeas, tulips, roses, all wild but beautiful. They spring to the rhythm of YHWH’s song. And as he gardens, God plans walking paths through the beauty. He takes the humans, places them in the Garden, and calls it their home. He intends it to be where he meets with them, dines with them, communes intimately with them.

In that garden home, we had a sense of place, a sense of home in our Creator’s presence.

But the story takes a tragic turn. In rebellion, the humans forfeit their home; they lose access to their place of communion, and finding themselves outside of the Garden, they walk away outside the presence of their Creator. I can imagine this moment of significance playing out; here, YHWH faces a choice, to undo his creation like so many of the gods of pagan myths, or pursue them with an unrelenting fire of passion. The rest of the story unveils YHWH’s plan that unfolds over thousands of years.

He chooses a people, the Israelites, saying, “Through you, I will bless the Nations. I will find a make a way to commune with my creation again.” God makes a covenant with them, much like the one he had with Humanity in the garden, and builds a tabernacle where his real, living presence could commune with them. Eventually, a King Soloman builds a permanent home for the covenant to be held, where God’s spirit dwells within it's Holy of Holies. Yearly, the high priest met with YHWH to commune with him on Isreal’s behalf. But even with this covenant, humanity struggled. In our fallen states, separate from our Creator’s presence, we couldn’t fulfill the covenant. Failure after failure followed, leading to bondage after bondage. But God had no intentions of undoing his beloved.

A baby is born of a virgin named Jesus from the Sticks (a literal translation of Nazareth). He grows in wisdom and stature, fulfilling the humanity we couldn’t. He communes with God daily, not through a smokescreen, but face to face as YHWH’s son.

His radical life threatens those in power, so they put him to a gruesome death, and while he hangs, his limbs nailed across mangled beams of wood, he breathes his last and the curtain hanging in the temple that separated creation from the Holy of Holies for so long, tears in two. The old covenant had been fulfilled; the barrier between God and man was rectified.

But the story wasn’t over. Three days later, Jesus rises from Sheol and proclaims the beginning of a new covenant, one based on grace. Through him, humanity had access to God’s intimate presence again:

“[W]ait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Some only hoped for such a day, and low and behold, you and I get to live it!

Jesus’ death and resurrection are only the beginning. Humanity still traverses a long voyage to reach God’s final home. We live in “the now, but not yet.” Humanity has the opportunity to commune with God now, but the promise of uncompromised communion is not yet realized. We struggle day after day, yearning and hoping for the day YHWH restores all creation. The promise of a new garden city lies on the horizon; the night is not forever; the sun will rise again.

Listen. He speaks your name.

Today, you and I have the chance to commune with God. What we lost in the Garden of Eden, Jesus restored to us. This is the greatest gift offered to us, communion with God, but we must choose to receive it and step into this new covenant of grace offered freely.

Calibration:

Do you see how God’s story is the story of relationship and communion?

Do you believe you can have intimate communion with God? Why or why not?

What keeps you from believing this is true?

Where do you have intimate communion with God in your life?

Where can you invite him to communion with you?

Where is God calling you to commune with him today?

Is there a specific place where you commune with God daily?
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