World Communion Sunday 2012
October 7th is World Communion Sunday, so I thought I would share my thoughts on what it means to partake of communion and how this ancient ritual impinges on our faith and life.
I have been writing about the Eucharist not because I am a pastor or theologian, because I am not. I am a mere Christian who is seeking and learning what it means to call Jesus Lord and Savior, to really believe Jesus died for my sins and what it means to really follow Jesus. I believe everyone who accepts Jesus and trusts their life to him should be welcomed at the table of Jesus. I know there are things about the Eucharist I don’t quite understand. I do find great power and meaning in the act of partaking of the bread and wine.
We should not put barriers between the love and grace of Jesus and the people who need the same love and grace we feel. I believe that the only barrier we should place before the communion table of Our Lord and everyone is their willingness to follow Jesus. Jesus opens the gate. Anyone willing to welcome Jesus into their hearts and souls should be welcome at the table of Jesus.
Jesus Christ is spiritually present during communion. When partaking of communion consider what it means to have the very real presence of Christ among us, and within you. The bread and cup remain just bread and cup. Nothing magical happens to them. They act as visible signs and symbols. As symbols, they point beyond themselves to a much deeper reality. That reality is the most important part and involves the promises that God has made to us in this new covenant—this new relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ. The bread and the cup outwardly represent those things that God is doing for us inwardly. Communion is a renewal of the vows we take at baptism and a reenactment of the last supper, the Lord’s Supper.
The Lord’s Supper connects us to everyone in every part of the world, regardless of our denominational and personal theological beliefs. Think of the implications this has for your life and how you can and should live it out in real life. Communion lasts only a moment, but has ripples that go way beyond that single moment. We are celebrating today our unity with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ across the planet. Even if we can’t completely understand intellectually, what The Lord’s Supper is all about, we can experience God’s empowering and unifying presence with and within us that binds and sustains our fellowship.
I will take this a step further. I believe that our lives should reflect our coming to the Lord’s Table that each of us should be a visible sermon that preaches Christ crucified. Each time we let go of past hurts and failures to embrace the hope and grace of the future we renew our surrender to Jesus. Each time we say yes to life instead of no, and risk being hurt, we enter more fully into the Kingdom of God in the messy and beautiful here-and-now. Each time we open ourselves to the love and grace of God and deny ourselves we more fully embrace the way of Jesus.
The Eucharist reminds us how amazing and great the love of God is. God forsook heaven incarnated on earth, born in a cold, lonely manger lived the life of a homeless mystic and died on a cross weeping and forgiving not because he was having a bad day or for fun, but because he loves us!
The Eucharist is the time we come to the table of Jesus and remember who he is, what he did, how we are saved, what it means to the people of God, and where we are headed in and through the person and work of Jesus on the cross. Jesus was broken and blessed to be a blessing to the whole world. We, his followers are to be the very same thing today. The church needs to reconnect to its original vocation and purpose and light the world on fire through the glory of God. The bread and wine are symbols of very real very present reality of God at work in the world making the world the kind of place where God really is in charge where war is not possible and saints are not needed.
The Eucharist as well as the church is meant to go beyond the moment and place where it is shared. As we participate in the remembering of Jesus, we acknowledge that Our Lord is different, our life is different, and our identity is found in and through the Kingdom of God. We are God’s people not for our sake alone but to be a blessing to the world. How this works I do not know. Yet, as I partake of the bread and wine, praying God, ‘take hold of my life guide my steps and lead me where He desires I go,’ I feel real power and presence in this ritual of remembrance.
Jesus for us the food of truth speaks of the gift of his life assuring us that whoever eats this bread will live forever (John 6:51). This “eternal life” begins in us even now stretching on, thanks to the transformation as consequence of the Eucharist: the one who feeds on me will live (John 6:57). The words of Jesus makes us realize how the mystery “believed” and “celebrated” contains an innate power and presence providing new life. By receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ, the consecrated bread and wine, we become sharers in divine life in an ever more conscious way. We can apply Saint Augustine’s words, in his Confessions. Stressing the mysterious nature of this food, Augustine imagines the Lord saying to him: “I am the food of grown men; grow, and you shall feed upon me; nor shall you change me, like the food of your flesh, into yourself, but you shall be changed into me.” We are mysteriously transformed by the Eucharistic food. In some way, the Eucharist makes us the people of God the body of Christ; we are to take this identity out into the world. Christ nourishes us by uniting us to himself drawing us into himself.
The Eucharist is the moment in which the church as a body gathers to remember the words and actions of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Sharing a meal as one people is a symbol and proof of the Kingdom of God among us. Paul’s exhortation to the Romans in this regard is a concise description of how the Eucharist makes our whole life a spiritual worship pleasing to God: I urge you in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1). With these words, worship is a total offering of self, offering of our entire being to the will of God made in communion with the whole Church. Paul’s insistence on the offering of our bodies emphasizes the concrete human reality of a worship that is anything, but disincarnate. We are to render our entire self, all of our heart and soul and mind—everything is to be aligned with the will of God through Jesus.
We are to incarnate the Eucharist in our daily life. We cannot say to have truly partaken of the bread and wine unless in and through this practice we become more and more the people of God.