It is called Holy Communion, The Eucharist, and The Lords Supper. Jesus established it with His disciples shortly before dying on the cross.
Every year our church celebrates communion at least 4 times. We offer it on the Thursday before Easter, we offer it on Christmas eve and we try to have a service dedicated to the sacred sacrament and ritual around this time of the year.
Why do we do this? What is the importance of Holy Communion?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and theologian who was an enemy of the Nazis because he refused to go along with their state idea of a church that practiced the anti-Semitism of the Nazis. In fact, he was a hunted man who upheld authentic Christian principles. As a part of the German underground he was not safe to worship openly. Bonhoeffer knew there was no other community and fellowship like that experienced within the Body of Christ. He said: "Baptism incorporates us into the unity of the Body of Christ, and the Lords Supper fosters and sustains our fellowship and communion in that Body".
During the Nazi reign, Bonhoeffer was cut off from other believers, and it took a toll on him. Donald LaSuer says "Bonhoeffers painful discovery is instructive for us. Cut off from the nurturing fellowship of other Christians, he felt a deeper hunger for the fellowship that was no longer available to him. Like a hungry man who knows the taste of bread though he can no longer reach and break from the loaf, he knew the power of fellowship when it was painfully absent".
When we come to communion, we have the chance to experience a fellowship, a deep union that only comes when we realize the saving grace that must cover each of us.
Communion is a time to:
On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread 24 and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me. 25 In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant between God and his peoplean agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it. 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 NLT
A. Jesus Interpreted something old: Passover
Passover is celebrated every year by those in the Jewish community. I have participated in at least 5 or 6 Passover dinners in my life. Because of an association with a Jewish family in the city of Cincinnati during my college days I was a part of the Seder dinner each year. Everything is symbolic and done to remember the plight of the Jewish people and how God delivered them and led them out of bondage and to the Promised Land. Each Seder dinner ends with the line, next year in Jerusalem. Jesus was celebrating Passover with his disciples when He took the dinner to a whole new level.
B. Jesus Interpreted something new: Communion
Jesus began to use the bread and the cup to talk about remembering what He was about to do at the cross. When Jesus broke the bread and held up the cup and referred to his broken body and the blood He would shed, He made a covenant with us.
The Lords Supper is a memorial meal. When we take communion we are remembering Jesus death for our sins. It is that simple. This meal calls us to pause in our everyday life and remember what Jesus did for us on the cross.
Communion calls us to:
26 For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lords death until he comes again. 1 Corinthians 11:26 NLT
What you must solemnly realize is that every time you eat this bread and every time you drink this cup, you reenact in your words and actions the death of the Master. You will be drawn back to this meal again and again until the Master returns. 1 Corinthians 11:26 The Message Bible
Communion is not just about looking back. It is about looking forward. In the NIV we read . . .we proclaim the Lords death until he comes.
There should be a spirit of rejoicing that accompanies this act. We are celebrating and proclaiming His death and power to change lives until He comes back. In a way we can say with those of the Jewish faith, not next year in Jerusalem but next year with our Lord. We look forward to the day when we celebrate this act of communion with Jesus at the head of the table.
Years ago, before fathers were allowed in delivery rooms, a young father-to-be was pacing back and forth, nervously wringing his hands in the hospital waiting room while his wife was in labor. Finally, a nurse opened the door and said, "Well, sir, you have a little girl." He heaved a sigh of relief and said, "Thank God it's a girl. She'll never have to go through the agony I've gone through tonight!"
We need to focus our rejoicing and make sure it is on the right thing. We rejoice in this act of communion because we wait for the return of our risen Lord.
Communion also calls us to:
27 So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. 1 Corinthians 11:27-28 NLT
Anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Master irreverently is like part of the crowd that jeered and spit on him at his death. Is that the kind of remembrance you want to be part of? Examine your motives, test you heart, come to this meal in holy awe.
1 Corinthians 11:27-28 The Message Bible
Communion allows us to examine ourselves and if the Holy Spirit shines his light on anything in our lives that it unworthy of the body and blood of our Lord, we have the opportunity to repent and experience his forgiveness and cleansing in a new way that we might sincerely celebrate communion.
Jesus died to save us from our sins and we should hate sin and forsake sin and sinful ways.
Dont come to the bread and cup this morning with un-confessed sin in your life.
Ask yourself some questions:
Have I walked close to God this week?
Have I acknowledged Him as Lord of my life?
Have I surrendered my life to Him or am I holding back a part of my life for myself?
Have I willfully participated in a practice that I know to be sin?
Have I offended someone?
Have I said things that need to be repented of?
Have I done something that is clearly a violation of Gods word?
Have I refused to make peace with my neighbor?
Am I holding something against someone else?
Am I clear in my heart and life before God?
Is there any hidden sin that only God knows?
Do I need to ask forgiveness today?
When an aircraft flies from New York to Los Angeles it is often off course 95 percent of the time. The navigator is constantly making adjustments and corrections until the final moment when the plane lands-exactly on target.
Lastly communion calls us to:
For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking Gods judgment upon yourself. 1 Corinthians 11:29 NLT
William Barclay suggests two possible meaning here and he proposes that both are intended.
You do realize that regardless if you have offended or been offended the responsibility is on you to go and make it right? In Matthew we learn that in chapters 5 and 18.
James chapter five encourages us to . . . confess our sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of person living right with God is something to be reckoned with.
We need to spend a moment in reflection about our relationships with others.
Is there someone that you need to ask to forgive you?
In Restoring Your Spiritual Passion, Gordon McDonald writes:
One memory that burns deep within is that of a plane flight on which I was headed toward a meeting that would determine a major decision in my ministry. I knew I was in desperate need of a spiritual passion that would provide wisdom and submission to Gods purposes. But the passion was missing because I was steeped in resentment toward a colleague.
For days I had tried everything to rid myself of vindictive thoughts toward that person. But try as I might, I would even wake in the night, thinking of ways to subtly get back at him. I wanted to embarrass him for what he had done, to damage his credibility before his peers. My resentment was beginning to dominate me and on that plane trip I came to a realization of how bad things really were. . .
As the plane entered the landing pattern, I found myself crying silently to God for power both to forgive and to experience liberation from my poisoned spirit. Suddenly it was as if an invisible knife cut a hole in my chest, and I literally felt a thick substance oozing from within. Moments later I felt as if Id been flushed out. Id lost negative spiritual weight, the kind I needed to lose. I was free. I fairly bounded off that plane and soon entered a meeting that did in fact change the entire direction of my life.
Spiritual passion cannot coexist with resentments and unresolved conflicts. The Scriptures are clear. The unforgiving spirit saps the energy that causes Christian growth and effectiveness.
As we come to receive the elements today Im going to ask you to take the time to talk to someone if necessary. If you have an issue with someone who is here and you want to get it cleared up now is a good time. We are going to file out of our seats in a few moments and come to these trays of bread and juice. As you are returning to your seat if God asks you to talk with someone why not go and get it fixed up. Stand with them and take communion with them if you want.
This is a solemn time for reconciliation.
Prayer for the receiving of the bread.
Prayer for the receiving of the cup
Blessing: May you be filled with the joy and love of Christ as you leave this place. God bless you, you are dismissed.