So What’s This Communion Thing About, Anyway?

My profound thanks to The Rev. Dr. Don Saliers, Ms. Jennifer Roberts, The Rev. Dr. Rex Kaney, The Rev. Dr. Anne Burkholder, and The Rev. Dana Everhart for agreeing to help in such an endeavor. It was a splendid series and grateful to call us colleagues and friends. This, October 4th’s sermon, concludes the series.

John 21:9-14

We’ve spent the past five weeks asking the questions, “what’s communion all about”. Sure, its bread and its grape juice. Also, it the classic definition of a sacrament–an action of Christ that the Bible says he participated in. Over the generations, we’ve also affirmed that our experiences of Communion match the formula first penned by Augustine–an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. In other words, in this tangible, simple act of eating a piece of bread dipped in a cup of grape juice, we have the potential to tap into something far deeper that these simple things would usually convey.

But to what end do we do this? Why?…. and not just “because Jesus said.”

I think it has to do with knowing and being known.

From the goofy name tags, “Hello. My name is…” to the now-ancient introduction of the mac and its goofy “Hello World”, it’s good to be known–and not in the sense of being a celebrity. I read somewhere that it is hard-wired into our brains to hear above the roar of voices in a crowd the sound of our name called. Likewise, parents respond physiologically differently to the sound of our own children’s cry, even in the midst of a room of crying children. There’s something hard-wired into us. When someone knows us… when someone needs us, we hear that above all us. There’s no greater form of hospitality than being known–that about how we feel “you remember MY name?” This is telling. I believe there’s no deeper desire to be known–to be recognized, called out by name, remembered, and loved.

When we come to the communion table, one of the central tenants of this meal is affirming that we are known by God. When we draw near, we embrace that we are not alone in this world, none of us. Jesus calls us by name and invites us to the table. We are called with all our gifts and dispositions, all our passions and frustrations, all our strengths and dark sides. We’re loved deeply. We’re known completely. Taken one way, we might think that is scary or unsettling. But this not something avoid. This is the ultimate “welcome home, y’all”. No matter who we are, what we’ve done or what we’ve left undone we are still called by name, welcomed, and loved.

Just as we are called by name–fully known–we also come to the table to know Christ. We come We recognize that the one who invites, the one who provides hospitality, the one who provides care, even the one who feeds is Jesus, the risen Christ. We meet Jesus, not face-to-face but in intimate and sometimes powerful ways.

The reason we have spent September focusing on the 4 actions that we do around the table has to do with memory and intimacy.

  • take—receiving God’s goods gifts that have been freely given not from obligation but abundance, trusting these gifts to those whom God knows.;
  • bless—thanking God for all that we receive (in abundant times, in lean times, in times of transition, in times of new life), knowing that all that we have comes from God’s goodness;
  • break—hearing the invitation and the accompanying hard word that for us to join in Jesus’ ministry, for us to be of any worth to God’s kingdom, we need to be broken. Just as we can’t share a loaf of bread until it is torn into pieces, neither can we be of any use util we take seriously the call to give ourselves away in order to nourish a hurting world;
  • share—an acknowledgement that what we have isn’t really ours at all—and definitely not ours to keep to ourselves. What we receive, we share. From the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 to the Scripture lesson we read today, we share so that we might know deeper who Jesus is and others might know Jesus as well.

Do you remember Anne postulating that maybe the reason that the risen Jesus disappeared on the road to Emmaus was because he didn’t so much disappear as he was internalized—living in the hearts of those who would see, who would know Jesus. I think there’s something to this. When we gather at the table, we do meet the living Jesus. Sometimes its in the vein of a powerful religious experience and other times its something minute, sometimes Jesus is made known to us in the mundane.

We meet Jesus, here at the table, and in doing so, we enter the school of way Jesus ministers So we also meeting Jesus in other places.
When offer the cold cup of water to the sick, the homeless, the refugee, those in crisis, like those fleeing flooding in South Carolina.
When we invite hungry people to the meal–both the holy meal and to the meal that physically nourishes.
When we point people to light, and not just light the scatters the darkness but light the brings us hope—the kind of hope that reminds us “we’re not alone” and that “we’re not abandoned.”
When we meet Jesus when we visit those in jail–even those on death row. Look at the shortened life of our sister Kelly. Take about learning the ways of Jesus!
When we pray alongside those who are victims of injustice, and
When we light a candle remembering someone who died too early, like all those students in Oregon and all whom have been victims of gun violence.
We even meet Jesus in offering welcome into the family of God to a child. We meet Jesus by reminding each other… and beginning to remind Wyatt… that we are loved before we even know how to love. Today, this lovely child–whose parents and grandparents have journeyed with God, whom I love as if they are my own, and, more importantly, whom God loves because they are God’s own–this is what we proclaim to the world. This is what we re-tell to each other.

So… what happens when we come to this community, to this table? We are loved. Deeply and profoundly loved. And all we can do in response is to love.