Communicating, then communing.
Hendrik Kraemer’s ‘Christian Message in a Non-Christian World’ (1938), became the primary study material for the International Missionary Council held at Tambaram (1938). In his critical review of the book, Indian Christian theologian P. Chenchiah speaks of the difference between communication and communion.
He says, Jesus Christ’s knowledge of God the Father’s will, did not arise out of direct explicit communication. We don’t see the Father telling Jesus, “Do this”, “Do that”. Instead, says Chenchiah, the Father’s will became part of Christ, through ‘communion.’ Communication is rational, verbal, conscious. Communion, often does away with words. It is experienced intuitively through senses and is much deeper. Just like couples who have been married for many years, knowing each others moods, likes, dislikes, desires and needs without them ever having to verbalise it.
We don’t see the Father telling Jesus, “Do this”, “Do that”. Instead, says Chenchiah, the Father’s will became part of Christ, through ‘communion.’
Paul speaks of the Thessalonian Church’s faith in this manner, which, to us, can be an illustration of communion with God and one another.
“The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia — your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it,…”
1 Thessalonians 1:8 (NIV).
Notice the description : Rang out (root word in Greek, ‘exerchomai’, meaning ‘go out of a confined space’). The second description is, ‘we do not need to say anything about it.’
Communion is far deeper than communication. That does not mean we forego communication. Newly married couples need to communicate a lot with each other, so that it grows deeper to the level of communion, so that they experience what is said about them at the marriage service, “Now they are no longer two but one flesh” (Matthew 19:6).
Communion is not only for married people. In every relationship communion is possible and is worth cultivating. Because, in communion, we experience the deeper dimension of relationships, which is modelled in the Holy Trinity, the three persons in One. That is why Holy ‘Communion’ is an initiator and reminder of this deep relationship — the one in which God, through Jesus Christ, revealed deep love, and invites us to experience it to the point that we can’t help but respond to it through our lives.
Our friend, Anu, recently passed away at a tender young age. One of the important take backs in life is that she communed instead of communicating. After her funeral, it seems she had a place in every heart. Her life spoke to people who did not even know her yet came to know of her through facebook posts and Instagram stories. Somewhere, by age thirty-three, she was able to go beyond communication and commune with people, whether their age was 9 or ninety.
In a disconnected age like ours (ironic due to the number of communication apps we have), communion is what we need to cultivate. Let the deep love buried in your heart depart from the enclosed space and reach other hearts, with or without words. Remember, from communication to communion — let that be our active pursuit in the days to come.