September 6, 2020
Friends, believe it or not, it’s been 6 months since we’ve taken communion together and this has been in part, due to our worship rhythms and routines being disrupted over these past few months, along with us trying to find a safe and responsible way to share in this communion meal together.
And given that it’s been so long since we shared communion together, and given that we’re in between sermon series, I thought it might be beneficial to share briefly about communion – what it is, what it signifies and its importance for you and me in our walk with Christ.
So for the next 10 minutes I want to share with you all a shortened and updated version of a message on communion I shared with you all in May 2019, and I think that’ll be okay, because even though May 2019 was only a little over a year ago, if you’re anything like me, it probably feels like it was 5 years ago.
Anyway, here’s what I want us to remember as we take communion together. And that is, as I shared some time ago, the communion meal ought to encourage us to consider four things, or as I think of it, communion ought to have us looking in four different directions.
Look Up, Look In, Look Around, Look Ahead
Let’s start with the first.
Communion ought to have us looking up, and here you can probably guess what I’m alluding to here, communion ought to have us looking and drawing our attention on God himself.
You all, have you ever noticed that just about every Catholic church ever has incredibly tall ceilings? Well, that’s not by accident, it’s an intentional design feature encouraging worshippers to look upward, to focus their attention on God himself.
And in many ways, communion is meant to do the same with us, it’s meant to get us to look up metaphorically speaking and draw our attention on God himself.
After all, as Jesus, takes the bread, he said, “This is mybody, broken for you.” And then taking the cup, he said, “This is myblood, poured out for you.” And then he says, “Do all this in remembrance of me.”
Every we time we eat this bread and drink the cup, we ought to look up as we reflect on what Jesus did for you and me through his death and resurrection.
And we not only look up and focus on God through reflecting on the events that this meal points back to, but in addition, how Jesus is using this meal to sustain us and nourish us in the days and weeks ahead.
Pastor Ligon Duncan, once gave a sermon on the Lord’s Supper where he made this simple, yet profound connection between the Lord’s Supper and the story of Adam and Eve being tempted in the garden.
Where the serpent said to Adam and Eve about the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. “Take and eat.” And what they thought would give them life and meaning and fulfillment, led instead to their death and destruction.
But now here’s Jesus, and just like the serpent, he says, “Take and eat.” Yet, not with a meal that will lead to their demise, but instead Jesus presents them with a new meal, a life giving meal, one that will truly give them life.
Jesus says to you and me, “Take and eat.” And as we do, our attention is drawn to God himself as we find our strength and nourishment through Christ.
Every we time we eat the bread and drink the cup, look up.
Here’s the second.
Every time we take communion, it is a reminder, an opportunity to look in, to look inward, within ourselves, to reflect on our own lives, to consider our hearts, to be honest with God about where there is sin in our lives or where our priorities might be out of order. And so, it’s a chance to reflect back and think about those moments where we were short with our kids, or didn’t listen to our spouse. It’s a chance to reflect on how we didn’t assume the best of our coworker, or the ongoing feud we have with our neighbor. It’s a chance to look in.
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul picks up on this important aspect of communion when he says,
28 Let a person examine themselves, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
You see, communion is a sacred and needed opportunity to look inward. To examine ourselves, to take inventory of our past days and weeks, and to confess those things before God himself.
And yet, with all that said, the goal of our looking inward and confessing our sin is not so that you and I would sit here wallowing in our guilt and shame and reflecting on what terrible people we are. No, no, no.
Rather, communion ought to do two things at once and that is, it ought to shine a brighter light not only on the gravity and depth and pervasiveness of our sin, but yet, simultaneously, a brighter light and deeper appreciation for the height and depth of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. So yes, look in. But also, look up.
This communion table reminds us that Jesus had to die for us – that’s how grave our sin was. But yet at the same time, this communion table reminds us that Jesus was glad to die for us – that’s how great his love is for us.
So there’s the first two. Look up and look in.
Here’s the third.
When you take the communion, don’t forget to look around. Look around this park here and see all the people you are taking it with.
This is so, so important. We call Lord’s Supper “communion” for good reason as the root word for communion is the same as the word “community”. Communion is something we do in community, as a church because it’s something that unites us.
And therefore, as we take it together as a church, it’s a chance to reflect on where our relationships are with one another. It’s a monthly checkup if you will, to get us thinking about our brothers and sisters in Christ and to reflect on those relationships and to seek forgiveness and reconciliation where necessary. Where communion ought to get us thinking, “You know, I wasn’t very nice to Amy the other day, I should apologize.” or “I was really hurt by what Mark said to me last week. I should be honest and tell him how I’m feeling.”
When Paul writes to the Corinthians, he addresses this very thing, acknowledging how the Lord’s Supper isn’t meant to be taken when we have unresolved conflict with others.
18 when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you ... 20 So then it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat.
So friends, every we time we eat the bread and drink the cup, look around and see who you’re sitting next to and maybe even not only for the sake of reconciliation. You know, one of the challenges in this season is that we’re still not all here yet, as there are many within our congregation who are worshipping from home for a variety of reasons. So maybe look around and take stock of who you haven’t seen in a while. Maybe it’s a reminder to reach out, give that person a call and see how they are doing.
Look up, look in, look around, and finally,
Here’s the last direction I want you to look when it comes to communion – look ahead, as communion is also a symbol of what our future holds.
I was listening to a favorite podcast of mine a while ago and they made this simple point in saying that, Communion, in its very nature, is meant to leave you wanting more.
And what they meant by that is no one, ever, in history of communion taking, has ever left church thinking, “Wow, what a hearty meal, I am stuffed.”
And that’s the point. Communion, by its very design, by its portion size, is meant to leave you wanting more and looking ahead. And as you take communion this morning, in something pre packaged that feels like something you’d be served on an airplane, you might be feeling that feeling all the more.
Communion, today and every day, is always meant to leave you wanting and hoping for more.
Because every time we take communion, it’s meant to point to a greater future. It’s meant to point us to the greatest meal of all time, a heavenly banquet, a celebration with Jesus himself.
You see, for all those in Christ, the communion we take today is simply a tiny appetizer in anticipation of the greatest communion of all time. It’ll be all your food dreams come true, the greatest conversations you’ve ever had, everyone bright and beautiful. And of course, perfect communion with God, once and for all.
Jesus hints at this when he’s sharing communion with his disciples for the first time, when he says,
29 I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
Friends, there’s a greater communion coming. And because of that truth, communion ought to give us great hope and resolve for a better day ahead.
So you all, are you feeling lonely and there’s no one to sit around the kitchen table with you? Take heart. There’s a greater communion coming.
Do you feel like your marriage is on the rocks and family dinners are just brutal to get through these days? Take heart. There’s a greater communion coming.
Are you experiencing shame when it comes to your self image and has it created an unhealthy relationship with food? Take heart. There’s a greater communion coming.
Do you struggle going to work each day and when you come home your spouse asks you at dinner how was your day and you just don’t want to talk about it? Take heart. There’s a greater communion coming.
Do your kids refuse to eat their vegetables and your stuck once again having to eat way too much broccoli? Take heart. There’s a greater communion coming.
When you take communion, don’t forget to look. Look up, look in, look around and look ahead. It’ll help us see God’s great gift of communion for all it truly is. Amen.