Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Journey of Communion

For Christians around the world the celebration of Communion is something we have in common.  Oh we might call it by different names, and we might fight over how often we should observe communion, what actually happens to the elements when we receive them, and even over what we use for elements but there is a common celebration there.  And whether we celebrate weekly, monthly or quarterly communion should never simply be something we do. 

Shauna Niequist In her book “Bread and Wine” writes:  “We don't come to the table to fight or to defend. We don't come to prove or to conquer, to draw lines in the sand or to stir up trouble. We come to the table because our hunger brings us there.”

We are told that during the Roman persecutions of the early church that the communion celebration was used to malign the church.  It was rumoured to be a cannibalistic ritual, celebrating with the body and the blood.  While others suggested the term “Love Feast” implied a celebration of a different type that happened behind closed doors. 

And so for two thousand years Communion has been the central point of the Christian faith because it directs our attention to the sacrifice that was made for us and the grace that sacrifice has provided. 

It was the night before he would be arrested that Jesus and his 12 closest friends gathered together to celebrate the Passover feast, something that each of them had been brought up celebrating.  And during the celebration Jesus took the elements that were so familiar to them and he spoke the words that would become central to the faith of so many people.  “Do this in remembrance of me” 

That was the setting behind the scripture that was read this morning. And two thousand years later Christians all over the world still celebrate communion, in one form or another.  Why?

Luke 22:19 He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” 
We need to understand that Communion Points Us to Yesterday.  This is probably the most vitally important component of the communion service the link it gives us with the past.

The main reason that Jesus gave us the communion service and the reason he insisted that we observe it on a regular basis, was because he knew how fragile the human memory is.  That’s the very same reason that God instituted the sacrament of the Passover for the Jews twelve hundred years before the birth of Jesus, so that the children of Israel would always remember how He, God, had delivered them from the Slavery of Egypt.

It’s when we are called upon to look back that we remember.  And as we participate in the communion service, as we eat the bread and drink that juice our minds travel back in time 2000 years to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice that God made for us.  You do realize that the sacrifice was made for you, not for someone else, but for you personally.

John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

But you know that really doesn’t say it all, does it?  The phrase, “He gave his only Son” That doesn’t mean that God said, “Here’s my son, you can have him” Jesus came to this earth in the womb of a virgin; he was born in a stable and raised in a carpenter shop.  For thirty years the creator of the universe lived as one of his created ones.  For thirty years God lived as a mortal in an imperfect world.  And in order that he could truly be the ultimate sacrifice for mankind he had to live as we live.  I’m sure that there were days that his nose was stuffed up, and days that he felt rotten, and days he didn’t want to get out of bed.  But he needed to experience the full realm of the human spectrum, from birth to death if his sacrifice was to be effective.

The gift of Christ however wasn’t enough to assure our salvation.  In the Old Testament God had laid down the law and there he outlined the sacrifices that needed to be made when the law was broken.  And the penalty for continually breaking God’s law was eternal separation from God.  A just God could not go back and change the rules; he couldn’t change the laws and the penalties for breaking the law.  But he could pay the price for us, and that’s what he did when he came to this earth.  He came to pay the price for each one of us.  He died so that we wouldn’t have to. 

And it’s when we come to the communion table that we remember that he died for us. 

Each year at Christmas it is so easy as believers to get caught up in the birth of Christ and to forget that the birth of Christ was a meaningless event without the death of Christ. The nativity scene is never complete without the shadow of the cross.

Now I wouldn’t have been the one to send to die for the sins of the world.  I mean the conversation would have gone a little bit like this, “Denn, we are sending you to earth as God’s Ultimate sacrifice”  “Ok, I can live with that”  “Well Denn, that’s the problem but we’ll get to that later. Ok?  You will be born in a stable and you will be raised in a carpenters shop.” 

“No problem, I’d prefer a fishing boat, but a carpenters shop is better than a farm”  “Now Denn, in order for your sacrifice to be effective, you’re going to have to die for the people of earth.  Do you have a preference for your death?”  “Hmmm. Let’s think now, if I’m going to die for the sins of the world then I’d like to die of old age, preferably in my sleep surrounded by my great great grandchildren.”

If we were honest that’s the way most of us would want to go, comfortably at the end of a long and productive life.  Most of us wouldn’t mind dying for the sins of the world if’n we could do it when and where we wanted.  But those weren’t the terms that Jesus came under.  He was willing to admit his weakness and fears to God, when he prayed in the garden just hours before he would be arrested, but then he was willing to say, “But not my will but yours be done.”

And then for me and for you, let’s make it a little more personal for you and you and you and you.  Think about it for each one of you, think about it for each one of us, as a matter of fact think about this.  I want you to focus on the thought that for you and you alone Jesus Christ the Son of God was beaten and cursed and mocked.  They pulled his beard out, they humiliated him, they stripped him of his clothes and nailed him to a cross and killed him for you sins, but the story doesn’t end there.  They put him in a borrowed grave carved out of the side of the hill, and after three days he rose from the dead.  And he did all of that for you, and for you and you and you and you.  It is in remembrance of the past that we take part in the communion service.

And so we are going to pause for a few minutes and take the time to share the bread of communion together, and as we take the small piece of bread we need to reflect on how Jesus gave his body to save us from our past. 

Whatever it is that yesterday holds, the forgiveness of Christ is enough to wipe away that stain.  If you’ve never experienced the forgiveness that comes through the grace of Christ just take the time this morning to embrace that gift, to ask Christ to forgive you and to believe that he has. 


Let’s pick up the story in Luke 22:18 For I will not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God has come.”

Communion isn’t just about yesterday, Communion Allows us to See the Future  Time and time again Jesus points us beyond his crucifixion, beyond his resurrection, beyond his ascension and directs our attention to the Second Advent, that is to say his second coming.  And that is where Jesus is directing our attention here.  Listen to what Paul writes about the communion service in 1 Corinthians 11:26 For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.

He is coming again, you do believe that don’t you?  His second coming is chronicled in depth throughout the New Testament, leaving only one detail conspicuous in it’s absence and that is the when.  We know the “who”, it’s Jesus Christ.  We know the “how” he’ll come in the clouds for all to see.  We know the “why”, it to gather his church to him, but instead of telling us the when, he tells us in Mark 13:32-33 “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. And since you don’t know when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert!   And so to demand to know what Jesus didn’t know is not only rude but it borders on blasphemy.

Communion then does not just direct you to reflect on the past, but it will cause you to focus on the future.  Yes Jesus did come so many years ago, but the truth is that he is coming again.  And while he came humbly last time as a child, born in a stable, this time he will come with a shout and the sound of a trumpet.  When I was a kid we played hid and seek, do kids still play that?  And the person who was it would close their eyes and count to a hundred while the other kids hid and then when the had gotten all the way to a hundred do you remember what they shouted, right “Ready or not, here I come” And while the scripture don’t tell us the exact words that will herald the second coming of our Lord, I’m sure that will be very similar to “Ready or not here I come”

Too many of us have lost the urgency of Christ’s coming.  Oh I’m sure that we all know he’s coming again, I’m sure we all believe that he’s coming again, but somehow I’m not sure that we are all anxiously awaiting his coming again.  I doubt that the average Christian is really waiting with baited breath for his arrival.

I heard a story once that involved H.A. Ironside a noted preacher of yesterday, after speaking in one large church a woman accosted him at the door and demanded, “How dare you do that?” “Do what?” was Ironside’s response. “You prayed ‘come Lord Jesus come’ and that would ruin all my plans” Would it ruin all your plans?  If we were real truthful about it this morning how many of us would consider the second coming as an intrusion on our lives and plans. 

One of my favourite quotes comes from the French Chemist Pierre Bethelot  who made this statement in 1869, “In one hundred years of physical and chemical science, man will know what the atom is.  It is our belief that when science reaches this stage, God will come down to earth with His big ring of keys and will say to humanity, ‘Gentlemen, it is closing time.’ ”

This morning we not only want to look to what Christ did in the past but look to the promise of his return.  As we take the time to reflect over the cup this morning I trust that we are looking with anticipation to the return of Jesus Christ. 


Luke 22:20 After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you.

Communion Directs us to Today

Let us always remember that no matter how wonderful yesterday was, it is gone.  And no matter how rosy tomorrow looks it’s not here yet. We have only today, and it is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present. 

As important as Christ’s death and resurrection was 2000 years ago it is worthless unless you are doing something with it today.  As important as the return of Christ will be when it happens, you still have to make a decision today for it to impact your life tomorrow.

Jesus offered himself up as a sacrifice and laid down his life for you 2000 years ago, but it’s only when you claim the power of that sacrifice that you enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Has anyone every received a car for their birthday?  No?  Don’t feel bad neither did have I, but I do have a birthday coming up soon. . .  But if you had of you could park that car in a garage and reflect on the history of that automobile, perhaps thinking back to how long that particular model had been around, marvelling at the different modifications and design changes that had taken place through the years.  You could have thought about how it progressed from a pile of unassembled parts to eventually become the finished product that was displayed on the dealer’s showroom floor.

Or perhaps you want to speculate about what was going to happen to your car in the future, perhaps wondering what it would be worth in 25 or 30 years.  And how the classic lines of that beauty would cause it be a sought after collector’s item.  Much like the 1973 Vega I once owned. 

But regardless of how noble the past history of your car might be, or how impressive the future of it might be unless you are willing to use it today, you are gonna walk.  We need to apply our Christianity to our everyday life; Christ has to be a vital part of our Today, not just our Yesterday or Tomorrow. And that is why the Bible says

2 Corinthians 6:2 For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.

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