By Jarrod Lynn
The Olympics are always fun and exciting to watch, and there’s really nothing like it…or is there? I’d like to discuss the striking similarities and differences between the Olympic Medal Ceremony and Christian Communion (i.e., Eucharist).
First, let’s look at the elements of the Medal Ceremony. The winners are put on a stand, and we all see who won and lost. The country flag and national anthem of the winners are shown, honoring their culture and home country. But there’s so much more going on here…Note that this is a public event, and that the physical actions which signify the meaning of this ritual, as well as the unspoken implications, include:
- Podium elevation–we won, you lost. We’re above you and better than you, and that’s why I’m standing above you right now.
- Team uniforms–this is who I am and what I’m about–and I’m not you, because you’re wearing a different uniform; you are not part of this podium, this is the winner’s stand.
- Medal materials–signifies the uniqueness of their status and preciousness. It’s a lasting, physical, tangible symbol of accomplishment and it reinforces the significance of the event.
The medal ceremony is all about honor, achievement, and celebration. And this is what Communion is all about…
But here’s the connection—err, rather the contrast—with communion: we (as in me, you, people) don’t ascend and step up to the medal stand. Rather,we bow the knee to rehearse Jesus atop the cross, accomplishing victory on our behalf. What’s more, Jesus doesn’t stand on a podium looking down on us; rather, he died on a cross so that we might have life. In a sense, He loses so that we could win. This is what we remember and rehearse at communion.
Compared to Jesus, we’ve lost—there’s no way we could get close to the winner’s podium. We don’t meet God’s standards. And it’s the same for everyone. But because of what Jesus has done, the playing field has been leveled. There’s no one else on the metal stand looking down on anyone. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) And there’s no one looking up to us as if we’re all that great. All are looking up to Jesus atop the cross, victorious.
It means we don’t have to compare ourselves to others in order to find value and meaning. It means that our place in community has been restored, and we don’t need to one up each other.
Let’s look at the elements of communion: bread and wine. These are simple elements, but with profound meaning and significance, just like the Olympic medals, right? There’s significance behind the physical elements when associated with a particular ritual. Bread is a mixture of creation and design, a combination of raw materials and human skill and ingenuity—God has us taken elements of creation and has us make them into something which will represent His body.
What does this mean? It means that God cares about my work and what I do. My work is given meaning. “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) “For you are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared beforehand.” (Ephesians 2:10). This communion bread helps us remember that God values our work. Yes, God wants us to make disciples of all nations. Yes, God wants us to share our faith in words, and to love and serve others. But he also wants us to work hard, to produce quality, honest work. Because what we do matters…even something as simple as bread and wine…
Bread and wine are associated with joy and community: They’re symbols of the Kingdom of God. Like the Olympic medals, these physical, tangible elements remind us of the significance of this event; and not just an event, but the ultimate victory over sin and death that Jesus invites us to be part of, all of which we rehearse on Communion Sunday.
This public ritual of communion helps us recover our place in community by leveling the playing field so that we are not one up or one down to anyone. It helps us to recover our place as servants of the one, true victor so that our accomplishments don’t determine our worth and lead us to a treadmill of endless performance. And it helps us recover from our failures to restore hope and energy for future endeavors.
- Will we acknowledge that Jesus is the winner in every area of our lives?
- Will we get off the winner’s podium to take our place as servants of the true Victor?
- Will we repent from doing life without God?
- Where in our lives are we not allowing God to be on the winner’s podium alone with all the medals?