Christianity is at its nature experiential. Jesus challenged his followers to:
“Taste and see,”
“Come all who are weary, “
“He who has ears let him hear,”
“Ask, seek, knock…”
Jesus commanded His followers to experience Him. This experience, of course, transcended the tactile and entered into the realm of contemplation:
“Who do you say that I am?”
“Love the LORD with all your mind.”
“Why do you call me good?”
The sacraments represent a combination of the tactile and the cerebral; they are meant to be an experience. I remember the first time I attended church and noticed carved into the wooden altar the words:
“Do this in remembrance of Me…”
My first question was “Do what, and in remembrance of whom?” Somebody did not do his job because I did not know what I was meant to remember or even who was charging me to remember it. It did not take a very long time before I understood the notion of communion, and that it was a sacrament implemented by Jesus as a reminder of his sacrifice on the cross.
Now when I take the bread and the wine I have my own ritual that goes on in my head as I remember His sacrifice.
It begins with the cerebral
“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you…” I know that the Apostle Paul is employing technical Rabbinical language to claim that Christ Himself was Paul’s Rabbi and that He entrusted to Paul the importance of the sacrament. I think about Paul’s conversion and subsequent life change; I think about my own conversion and subsequent life change. The experience has begun.
Enter the tactile
For the bread, I put it in my mouth and hold it between my teeth and wait for the Pastor to reach a certain portion of the text; “broken.” “…that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken…’” My teeth crush the bread as I simultaneously picture Jesus on the cross, “broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me…”I remember. The experience is heightened.
For the wine, it begins with the eyes. Red. Red like blood. The perfect blood of Christ that alone can wash away the sins of mankind. I smell the wine and when that first waft hits my olfactory glands I picture Jesus laughing and fellowshipping with His disciples at the last supper- it is bittersweet. I let the wine sit on my tongue and rest in my mouth- it is bittersweet. My savior was tortured and bled, but the blood was necessary because the blood pays the price, it pays the price for the sins of the world. The experience is deepened.
Back to the cerebral
I pray and think about the promise I made to God, “If You can save me, if You can change me, I will do whatever you ask me to do. “ He followed His end of the bargain, now I must follow mine.
Communion ends and the purpose of the Sacrament is accomplished because it stirred in me a cerebral and tactile experience; it reminded me of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
Christianity is experiential in nature. The Sacraments are important because they remind us of those key experiences.