It should be noted that I plan my sermons out well in advance. I know what I am going to be preaching on about three to six months out so this series of messages was pretty much in the making from September or so on. I was looking at the calendar for 2015 and Easter Sunday is April 5th this year and that means there are 14 Sundays between now and then and as I recall from a discussions on the stations of the cross there are fourteen of them in some traditions. Because of this, I felt covering Jesus last days from the Last Supper to the Resurrection would be a good series and it would get me back to Jesus’ life for my congregation. The thing is though this is not your traditional 14 stations of the cross I am using but my own modified version. I need texts and the Catholic version has some stations that are purely tradition. The protestant version eliminates these and has less stations but I felt it will be fairly easy to pick fourteen events from the Last Supper to the Resurrection so it was an easy fit really.
The first sermon then becomes The Last Supper and this is also the first Sunday of the month so it is Communion Sunday. It works out well that I had the opportunity this last Sunday to preach about communion and serve it all in the same day. Although that is not the only lesson of the last supper, I did focus on communion because it is the central event but there are other things Christ teaches surrounding communion that set the tone for communion and are lessons to us as to how to approach communion.
Before Jesus instituted communion he washed his disciples feet. During the supper there is a discussion among the disciples as to who was greatest but Christ corrected them and reminded them that the kingdom of God is about humility not about lording it over people. To approach communion one must have a humble heart and an understanding of being a servant not a lord. You are remembering what your Lord did for you not what you do for him.
Then there are the two elements of communion – the bread and the wine. I made an observation about hymns and communion. In our hymn book there are tons of hymns abort the blood of Christ. This is very Protestant thing. We flash by the bread to get to the wine because Protestants love the grace of Christ found in his blood and there is still some reaction that is negative to the Catholic Eucharist. I am going to give the Catholics credit though for keeping some focus on the body of Christ but I also have to say having observed Catholic communion a couple of times they seem to gloss over the blood of Christ a little. The odd thing is Jesus treated them equally and so some way should be made in our minds and heart to consider both as we approach the communion table with equality. Christ emphasized both and valued both so should we.
For the body of Christ I long had some difficulty growing up in Protestantism because to be honest the explanation I was given was very Pentecostal. The idea of by his stripes we are healed is prevalent in that theology so the body of Christ was more about Christ’s provision for healing than an understanding of his body. The thing we miss is Jesus uses bread and bread has significance in this event.
When two people were at odds with each other in the ancient Middle Eastern world the expression ‘they don’t break bread together’. However, if the same to people wanted to end being enemies they would sit down and ‘break bread together’. Breaking bread was symbolic of friendship and fellowship. The symbolism Jesus is suing when equating his body with bread indicates a reconciliation between God and his people. God uses the body of his Son to ‘break bread together with humanity”. God and those who accept the bread from him move from being enemies to being friends. Jesus provides reconciliation, friendship and fellowship with God through the breaking of His body. We symbolically use Christ’s body as the bread we break between God and ourselves.
The cup is about forgiveness and atonement. Christ’s blood is laid out as a sacrifice once and for all to not only cover over our sins but as the writer of Hebrews puts it – to cleanse our conscience to serve the living God. The blood is about more than forgiveness through grace but it is about transformation through grace as well. Christ blood changes us into something we were not before.
Communion is about remembering Christ and all that he did through the sacrifice of his body and the shedding of his blood. It is about remembering that through Christ we have forgiveness, fellowship, friendship, transformation and all the rest that he dos through his body and blood and then remembering one very important thing – WE DIDN’T DESERVE ANY OF IT. This is the communion I wish to partake of and understand. The next time you take communion I hope you remember all of it and are mindful and deeply spiritual in your understanding of all it means.