Why Do We Eat this Meal?
Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost • September 29, 2019
Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:17-29, 33-35
(adapted from The Inclusive Bible)
Pastor Jeff Wells
Today is the last Sunday of our worship series called “Breaking Bread” – our exploration of the power and meaning for us of our sacramental practice of Holy Communion. Our centering time at the beginning of worship reviewed the richness we have experienced over the past four Sundays.
For the past four Sundays we have been exploring the mystery, meaning, and power of Holy Communion. In creating this ritual for us, Jesus wants to teach us that, when we dare to break bread and share it, we end up not having less, but more for everyone. Moreover, Communion has the potential to open our hearts, minds, and spirits to the abiding presence of Christ in our midst. Not only that, but we become the body – his body – for the world. When we engage this ritual with open hearts, we learn to actually practice being Christ’s body.
In the letter to the Corinthians, we gain a perspective that should not surprise us, but that we have not focused on yet during this series. For us, it may seem obvious to us that when we gather around the Communion table that we want not only to assure that everyone is welcome, but that everyone is treated equally, with love and respect. But that was certainly not what Paul found in the church in Corinth. His letter chastised members of the church because they did not eat together. They were definitely not acting like the body of Christ. Paul aims his harshest criticism at the wealthy members of the church who went ahead and ate and got drunk while humiliating the poor who were left with nothing to eat. So this is a table where we have to put justice into practice or it is not the table of Christ.
This is the vision of this holy meal that was given to us by Jesus, passed down by his disciples, learn and passed on by Paul, and down from generation to generation for 2000 years. So this meal connects us to our spiritual ancestors. Sadly, Christian institutional bodies and communities have often abused, corrupted, and diminished the vision and the power of Communion, yet there have always been those striving to keep this vision alive and growing. To be the body of Christ means to practice love and justice in every aspect of our lives. If we are not practicing our love for one another and treating one another with respect and equality around this table of grace, then we cannot be the body of Christ for the world. But that is precisely what the Church of the Village is striving to do as we build beloved community on the foundation of progressive theology, radical inclusion, and anti-racism.
In the early Christian church, communion was central to building the communities of Jesus’ early followers. The same is true for us. This sacramental act centers us and provides a compass for us to keep moving in the direction God desires for us. Communion is, in fact, the central action that draws us together and builds us as a community – as the Body of Christ. It is not just about “remembering Jesus.” It is about allowing God to work deeply within and through us for God’s beautiful vision for humanity and all creation. John Wesley said Communion is means of God’s grace and advocated celebrating communion as frequently as possible.
So I have fantastic news to share with you this morning. At least, I hope you will agree that it’s fantastic. Because this series has been so successful and members of our Worship Vision Team have gotten such positive responses from so many of you, we have decided to include Communion as part of worship every Sunday through the end of this year. Then we will evaluate the experience and consider whether we should incorporate communion in worship every week as an ongoing practice. I want to thank you for your input and feedback so far. And I invite you to share with each other and with our planning team your experience of weekly celebration of Holy Communion.
So, why do we eat this holy meal? We eat it because, as Jesus showed us when he inspired the feeding of 5,000 people, a little goes a long way. When we break bread and share it with one another, we don’t end up with less, but there is plenty for everyone and some left over. We eat this meal because Communion has the potential to open us to Christ’s presence among us. We eat this meal because it builds community among us. So, not only is Christ among us, but we become his body for the world. And finally, we eat this meal because it is one of the most important ways we experience love and justice in very real ways as we treat one another with compassion, forgiveness, equality, respect, and love. This is the rock on which we stand.
Copyright © 2019 by Jeff Wells
All rights reserved.