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Introduction – what is the significance of communion?
This morning we meet around the Lord’s Table, also called Communion or the Eucharist. It seems like a fitting thing to do as we prepare for a new year on this Sunday after Labor Day. I have always been struck by the notion that Jesus told us to remember him by eating bread and drinking wine. This is the holiest moment of our worship service and it involved eating, not solitude, silence, fasting or some other mark of sacrifice. I have found that the more I think about the significance of communion the more I discover. So let us just ask this before we meet at the Table: what does it mean that we are told to remember and worship through eating?
Jesus invites you to eat with him because he wants a relationship with you.
This week marks the return to school for many of our young people. I know that when I started each school year the most important question I faced was “what will happen at lunch?” Lunch time is unscripted time so it means you have to “find someone to eat with.” Who you eat with might be an indication of how many friends you have and who they are. I would like to say that this anxiety about being accepted at the lunch table gets better as you get older, but it doesn’t. It might actually get worse.
For this reason it is even more significant to think that communion is really an invitation from Jesus to sit at the table with him. We can picture Jesus in the lunch room saying “come sit with me. There are others at this table as well, all my followers. You are welcome here.” It reminds us that eating together is relational. Communion is a picture of the relationship that God wants to have with you. At lunch you talk about your day, share what is on your heart ask each other “what’s up.” So as we pass the elements you can share with Jesus what is on your heart, but also ask “what are you doing in your kingdom Jesus? How can I be part of that?”
But for some of us, the notion of sitting at the table with Jesus is intimidating and hard to accept. It is less like one of your friends inviting you to sit at the lunch table and more like your history teacher asking you to sit down. Now imagine that you were supposed to complete an assignment in history which you did not do. Now the only thing you feel when approaching the table guilt and failure.
Jesus invites us to eat because his whole body was given to transform your whole life.
It is understandable that many approach the Lord’s Table tentatively, like a guilty seventh grader facing a history teacher. But what if that history teacher says “I know you have not done your assignment and I am inviting you here to let you know I am forgiving you for that. The assignments not due and there will be no failing mark. Now the student would be glad to sit down and have lunch with his teacher. He is filled with gratitude. This is what Jesus says to you today. I have paid the price for your invitation. I have made it okay for you to dine with me, by atoning for your sin with the sacrifice of my life.
When we accept the invitation to sit with Jesus and take the elements of the bread and the cup, we are acknowledging our need and accepting Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. We enter into relationship with Jesus on his terms.
But the symbolism is deeper still and touches many other things. For instance, why use eating? One thought could be that when you eat you take the bread of Jesus which is a symbol of the body of Jesus and His body becomes your body. This is a reminder that he gave his whole body – his whole life and flesh — for us. And more than that, his death is meant to transform our whole lives. Your redemption, your forgiveness affects and changes your whole body.
Communion reminds us that faith in Jesus Christ is something we believe and celebrate with our bodies. In the same way, your discipleship as a follower of Jesus is something that affects your whole life.
So if you are eating with Jesus in this communion service today it means Jesus is also eating with you at lunch tomorrow as well as remaining a part of your life whatever you and your body do.