Summary: This sermon looks at why we celebrate communion
Steve Cornell tells of when he was a young boy, two things stood out for him on communion Sunday. First, he knew it would be a long service because the pastor had no intentions of cutting short his sermon. Second, he was afraid because n his deep voice, the pastor would always make a strong point of reading our Scripture from today from the King James Version and speak of guilt, the body and blood of Jesus, damnation and even death itself if you took of the elements with an impure heart. Communion can be a strange experience for many, even believers but maybe even more so for visitors. Randy Mueller tells the story of a friend who attended worship for the very first time and it was a communion Sunday. When they called people to receive the elements, he thought it was pretty cool that they were taking a break in the service for a snack. So you can imagine the shock when the person serving communion saw the man rip off a handful of bread and drink not one small individual cup of juice but four, drinking one after the other. The guest didn’t quite understand why they used such small cups.
From the outside looking in, Communion can be a little strange, frightening, confusing and even uncomfortable. It’s a bunch of people standing in line to dip a piece of bread in some grape juice and say they’re eating the body and blood of Christ. But there is a reason why followers of Jesus have gathered around this table for nearly 2,000 years. For the past few weeks, we’ve been in this series, “CSI:Church” attempting to rediscover the deeper meaning behind a lot of the stuff we do at church. Today, we’re going to take a closer look at Holy Communion.
Holy Communion is a sacrament. The early church borrowed the word sacrament from the Roman Army. A recruit for the Roman army became a soldier by undergoing a sacramentum or initiation which included taking an oath of office, and being branded behind the ear with the number of his legion. This resulted in new responsibilities as a soldier and new advantages soldiers lived better than the average citizen and veterans received special privileges and benefits. The church chose the word sacrament because communion is a rite that is simultaneously a spiritual and physical act, and in that the sacrament simultaneously receives new responsibilities and a new spiritual status before God.
A sacrament is basically an outward and visible sign of an inward change in a person’s life. Communion is one of two sacraments in the United Methodist Church, the other being baptism. A sacrament is determined by a simple question, “Did Jesus do it?” Communion was given to us by Jesus during the Passover celebration which was his last meal with his disciples. Jesus changed the meaning of the Passover bread and wine with these words, “’Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” Matthew 26:26-27