Growing Up Christian: The Power of Communion 6/3/12

If we had more young people in our church (and we are certainly moving toward that goal), maybe we wouldn’t make such a big deal about three 11 and 12 year olds becoming full members of the church. But when it happens every 2 or 3 years – like when Jon, Jerome, and Lizzie joined, and when Eliza, Melanie, and Marisa joined – we can take the time to make it a really big deal. Not just because we’re excited about these new members, but because it is so interesting to think about what the church will be in their lifetimes. What will they make of the church and what will the church make of them?

Romans 8:12-17 So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. 13 There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. 14 God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! 15 This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” 16 God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. 17 And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!

June 3, 2012

Growing Up Christian: The Power of Communion

You may or may not feel something special happen when you eat communion or when you are baptized.  I talked to Harleigh, Brian, and Grayson, each individually in the last few days and explained to them that this Sunday and next we will enact the 2 sacraments of the United Methodist Church. Your life could change dramatically, or it might not.  Either way, we understand God is present, available, and claiming our lives for God’s purposes.

The Protestant Church in general just recognizes two sacraments – 2 rituals of the church in which God is especially present.  When we eat and drink together in Holy Communion, we believe it is an outward sign of the inward presence of God.  We believe that something special happens when we share this bread and cup, something bigger than what any of us can make happen by ourselves. When we baptize someone, likewise, we believe God is present in a special way.

Let’s think this morning particularly about what communion means to us. Let me suggest firstly that communion helps us to understand that you cannot be a Christian by yourself. You cannot be Christian by yourself.  There is something essential about giving and receiving to and from another person. Something essential about being a Christian is expressed by the simple act of giving and receiving bread and wine (or grape juice). I really like having communion like we do at our winter retreats, where everybody gives the bread and cup to each other, rather than me giving it to everybody.  That giving and receiving is basic to who we are as people of God, as Christians. And you can’t be a Christian by yourself.

When you come to the altar to receive communion, the most important thing that happens doesn’t have anything to do with how you hold your hands or whether you kneel or stand or how you act. The most important thing that happens is that everybody is included.  Sometimes people decide they don’t want to eat the bread or drink the cup, and that’s ok, but it’s offered to everybody. At communion we eat together with people we like and people we don’t like. We together with the young, loudmouth bully, and we eat with the old man with hair growing out of his ears. We eat with the motorcycle gang member with tattoos on her arm, and we eat with the snotty know-it-all rich kid. This is not a private meal.

In fact, there’s a way in which we share this food not just here, but beyond these walls. Because God includes everybody in this meal, we know that God includes everybody – not just people we think are good, people who think like us and act like us, but all kinds of people who are more like us than we want to admit, people who are broken and struggling, and trying to find their way. God includes the Muslim woman with the head scarf at the Target store; God includes the atheist teenager hanging out on a street corner.

One of my favorite part of communion is at the end when we serve Dr. Shive up at the organ, and Keith Nunnelee over at the computer or a disabled person who can’t walk up front. It’s a way that we say God looks out for people who are working; God reaches out to people who are hurting. We don’t choose who we are going to eat with or whether we like them or not. God includes even our parents and brothers and sisters in the meal. We can pretend they are not there, but God serves them anyway, people we know and people we don’t know.

When we serve communion we always remember Jesus’ words, “This is my body; this is my blood.” Some people think about it as though this ritual makes this bread like magic – which is kind of fun, and we can always hope. But some people today think that when Jesus said “This is my body – he was talking about everybody who was eating the bread with him – everybody who eats this bread is part of Jesus’ body, part of who Jesus is in the world.

Some people think of drinking the cup as like magic too – they talk about the grape juice or the wine turning into Jesus’ blood and because we drink that blood we know that Jesus died for us. Again, you might think of it that way, but another way you could think about it is that Jesus is talking about noticing how whenever we eat God nurtures us and it is as though we are receiving new life. Whenever we drink this cup, our lifeblood is renewed through the power of God’s love.

That’s why I always say when I serve the bread, “This is Christ’s body, broken for you. Eat and be thankful for the gift of life.” And when I serve the cup, I say, “This Christ’s blood, shed for you. Drink and be thankful for the gift of new life this day.” Our life is enriched by God’s love for everybody who eats, for everybody who shares bread and life. Our life is renewed by the cup of blessing, by God’s lifeblood that restores us to health, revives us to hope, and renews in us the love of God and each other.

For some of you, today is the first time you eat the bread and drink the cup.  I hope you find this ritual touches your life today, and I hope that this meal sustains you all your life – all your long, happy and healthy and blessed life.

This is God’s good news.

 

2174 What Does the Lord Require of You