Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Communion Thoughts: March 23, 2014

I had a rare opportunity to lead our church with some thoughts for Communion on Sunday. I know some people wanted to hear them but weren't there. So, I thought I would share them here for you. A few people told me they were helpful and good thoughts...I am glad they were. My prayer every time I get an opportunity is to uplift those who are listening.

I hope they are encouraging to you as you think about the Lord's supper.

For the Bread:
Matthew 26:26
“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat, this is my body…’”
Jesus was clear that this meal was the living embodiment of him, his example of life and death. Every time going forward, these disciples would gather to eat and break bread with one another in homes, with friends, family, strangers, they would remember all that they had seen and heard. It would live in their hearts. The smell of bread baking would remind them of the teaching Jesus had done and help them remember their purpose to share the Gospel with everyone they meet. They would treat one another as brothers and sisters. Family.

Paul would tell this story again to the church in Corinth and we read now in 1 Corinthians 11. That as often as we eat this bread and drink the cup, we would be proclaiming to the world that Christ physically died but he rose again for us. THAT is Good News.

Paul then fittingly goes on in the next chapter to talk about us being one body. He speaks of one body with many parts, how we all have a purpose and need one another…and I believe Paul is bringing us full circle today to what Jesus was also doing in breaking bread with his brothers.

As Jesus proclaims that this bread is his flesh and by eating it we are making a bold declaration, it is a tribute to what we are actually doing together. Just as the bread is being broken in front of them and hearing that this is his body, Jesus looks across the table as we are doing today and proclaims

THIS [I held my hands out to the people of the church] is my body.

As the body of Christ, by breaking bread together and communing in his name, we are taking a bold step to proclaim Christ’s death until he comes again. When I take and eat, I think about how every barrier must fall as I eat together with my brothers and sisters. To eat this bread means I must love again as I have been loved by Christ. Past pain, issues, disagreements, and hatred must be no more. I am no longer mine alone, but I am now part of a chorus of voices proclaiming the one thing the world needs to hear. Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, our very Savior is alive! Believe! Follow him as I follow him!

THIS is my body. Take and eat.

Father, we humbly thank you for this bread. For the hands that made it…and for those that serve it. As we take this together, let us be aware of one another. As we commune, fill us with the love we should have for those that are sitting near us and for those across this room and around the world. As we pass the bread, open our eyes to ways we might serve the person that we share this food and give us strength in our weakness. Thank you for family. Thank you for the body. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen!

For the cup:
Matthew 26:27-29:
“...And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.’”
As Jesus continued in this meal, he took a cup of wine and used it to tell his disciples why he had to die. As Jesus shed his blood for us and our sins, he took on our punishment that he did not deserve. He did not want to suffer, but knew of the covenant he had made. It did not prevent him from asking to be freed from the coming crucifixion. Twice, he prays for God to not only save his people but to save him from the punishment.
Matthew 26:39 and again in verse 42:
“And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.’”
“Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.’”
Jesus wanted the cup to pass by him; for him to not have to drink it. He knew what it meant. By giving the cup to his disciples, he knew he would be fulfilling its meaning. For him, this cup of sacrifice was bitter. There are traditions in other cultures who drink literal bitter drink because they want to be reminded of what a bitter cup this was for Jesus. Today, we know what a gift and sweet blessing we have been given. We can take some solace in drinking our sweetened cup as a reminder that the Good News of Jesus truly is sweet. We have forgiveness of sins. We anticipate the day we can drink this fruit of the vine with him anew in our Father’s kingdom.

Father, we are humbled to know the sacrifice Jesus made. That in the bitter cup of death, we have been blessed with the sweet cup of life. Let this cup be a reminder that we are to share the cup of Good News with others…to let them know of forgiveness of sins and how it comes from above in Jesus’ name. And it is in his name we pray, Amen!

For our offering:
We have communed together in the name of Jesus. By doing so, we have made a bold proclamation that Jesus is Lord. We have shouted aloud that he died and rose from the grave and lives today. We share that he will come again for his children and we will live together in eternity. It was a great sacrifice for God to send his son into the world. For Jesus it was a sacrifice to allow himself to be crucified for us.
Luke 12:48b
“...From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
We have been given more than we could ever ask. As disciples of Jesus, we are well aware of the sacrifices that have been made for us; sacrifices so much greater than a simple sacrifice of money, service, or time. Because of this, we are called to remember God in our giving. But it should be returned to Him with joy, for it is all His to begin with and He promises so much more. Jesus is risen! He has given us a new and transformed life.

As we pass around baskets, place your offerings inside. We know the joy we have in giving for it reminds us where we place our trust. Pray with me.

Father, lead us to give you all our hearts and all our trust. Lead us in giving back to you in response to the blessings you have given us. Thank you for the cross. Let us be givers to all those we know in our lives. To give to our neighbors and proclaim our giving to be in the name of Jesus for the sake of the world. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen!