Observing Holy Communion
Text: Matthew 26:26-30
Only as we realize what communion takes into view as sacred, can we observe it meaningfully.
In search of the Holy Grail -It was there all the time.
-Indiana Jones, in The Last Crusade
- Cup of the Lord - thought to be the cup of the Last Supper in which Joseph of Armathea collected the blood of Christ at the cross. It was thought that if you drank from it, you would be healed af any disease, and that you would live forever, sort of a fountain of youth.
We have come to the Holy Grail today. They didn't understand, that it was there all the time.
I. Holy Communion takes in view the Son of God.
A. As a sacrifice
The American Heritage Dictionary defines Sacrifice - from the word sacred. meaning - Dedicated or devoted exclusively to a single use, purpose, or person:
-His whole life was a sacrament (Behold the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world.)
- He came to seek and to save that which was lost.
- It isn't in his death that redeems us, it is His life. (If he never rose, we would have no life. He is eternally alive, and His blood will never lose its power.
B. As a volunteer
- His life was not taken from him, but he freely gave it.
26While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 27And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them,
- Anabasis - His humiliation Katabasis - ascension
Philippians 2:8 through Philippians 2:11 (NASB) 8Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
C. As a gift of life
- I Am the Bread of Life
John 6:47 through John 6:51 (NASB) 47“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48“I am the bread of life. 49“Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50“This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51“I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
Matthew 26:26 through Matthew 26:28 (NASB) 26While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 27And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.
Thanksgiving - for the gift - Gr. åš÷áñéóôÝù from which we get our word eucharist.
II. Holy Communion takes in view the symbols of grace.
A. Remembrance of Christ's sacrifice (memorial)
-pascha--sufferring (the price paid) -the Passover Lamb.
- Blessing - Gr. åšëïãÝù from which we get our word eulogy.
B. Redemption from sin's curse
The wages of sin is death, but in the blood is life.
- Independence day.
"Drink from it, all of you; 28for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins."
Hebrews 9:12 (NASB) 12and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.
C. Reception into the church family
- Communion with God means communion into Christ's body, the church.
- The church is not only those who you see about you now, but those through all time who have received redemption by Gods hand.
1 Corinthians 10:17 (NASB) 17Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.
- Between the Last Supper and Christ's Crucifixion, the gospel of John records the prayer of Jesus for his church.
John 17:20 (NASB) 20“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.
-No room for division! - sometimes I think that the term United Methodist is a misnomer, because they seem anything but united.
D. Reminder of the resurrection
- "until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom."
-On the road to Emmaus - Resurrected Lord revealed in the breaking of the bread.
***The Jacobites of Scotland never met one another on the mountain paths, never sat down to a table of council and conference, without lifting a cup to pledge the return of their king and prince, Charles. At length Charles came back, but only to bring to Scotland defeat, disaster, and suffering. In every celebration of the Lord's Supper, since that last and first night in the Upper Room, the followers of Christ have lifted the sacramental cup as a token of their faith that their King shall come. That is the meaning of those words, which we hear so often that we forget their deep import: "As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till He come." Till he come! And when he comes, He shall come, not to bring pain and suffering, as did King Charles to unhappy Scotland, but to usher His faithful and joyful saints into the eternal joys of His presence and His heavenly kingdom. --McCartney (edited by D.V.M.)
III. Holy Communion takes into view the servant of God.
A. In reaching for Christ
- The appropriation of his merits.
-In taking Communion, we identify with both Jesus and Peter. We betrayed him just as Peter did, and we reach out in faith to Him, the only one who can rid us of our sin. It is recognizing our betrayal and turning to him, the only one who can heal us. How often Peter must have remembered that supper when he declared that he would follow the lord even unto death, after which Christ told him that very night he would betray him three times.
B. In response to Christ
***Every Christian ought to be ready to stand up courageously and unashamedly for the Lord. How inconsistent that a person redeemed by the blood of Christ experiencing saving power should cower before an unbelieving world!
On one occasion Frederick the Great invited some notable people to his royal table. Including his top-ranking generals. One of them by the name of Hans von Zieten declined the invitation because he wanted to partake of communion at his church.
Some time later at another banquet Frederick and his guests mocked the general for his religious scruples and made jokes about the Lord's supper. In great peril of his life, the officer stood to his feet and said respectfully to the monarch, "My lord, there is a greater King than you, a King to whom I have sworn allegiance even unto death. I am a Christian man, and I cannot sit quietly as the Lord's name is dishonored and His character belittled."
The guests trembled in silence, knowing that von Zieten might be killed. But to their surprise, Frederick grasped the hand of this courageous man, asked his forgiveness, and requested that he remain. He promised that he would never again allow such a travesty to be made of sacred things. (Romans 1:16)
- The love aspect of sacrament. Not only receiving the merits, but accepting the love and responding in like kind. Like a special gift from a friend, you not only receive the gift, but the love that goes into it, so it is with Christ. And given the infinite love that provided our redemption at such a great cost, how can we not respond with love.
***Whenever people expend themselves, they want results. If they lay down life, they want someone's life raised up. If they empty themselves, they want someone to be filled. They want their sufferings to bear fruit.
If this doesn't happen, they're tempted to give up. The refusal of the gift quickly becomes a reason not to offer it. Instead of leaning into resistance with love, they'll back off and say, "Well, we tried."
However, the motive for offering love is not that it be successful. Christians want reponse, but they are not bound to it. They sacrifice for others because they are the recipients of sacrifice. They are the current generation of a long line of broken bodies and shed blood.
This gift Christians have received, they freely give. They join the living history in enacting the dream of God, [which] is a people sustained and transformed by mutual sacrificial love.
-- Fr. John Shea in U.S. Catholic (March 1990). Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 7.
1 John 3:15 through 1 John 3:18 (NASB). 16We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
C. In resembling Christ
- The sacramental life. Taking Christ into us, taking in that which we are to become. The fruit of the vine - Grapes are the fruit of the vine. Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches.
Romans 12:1 (NASB) 1Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
As those who are given the life of God, who are called the children of God by adoption through the blood of Christ, We too are called to a sacramental life. a life dedicated to the purpose and person of one, Jesus Christ. As we observe communion, and you celebrate the sacred gifts you have been given, let the life of Christ so dwell in you, that you give your all to him in dedication and devotion. Be transformed by these gifts in such a way that you extend His sacrifice by becoming a living sacrifice on the Altar of His love.