Summary: Why do we have "Holy Communion?" This is a sermon in the Reformed tradition that answers that in three ways -- Obedience, Remembrance and Enlightenment (or nurture).
In a little while we will participate in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Holy Communion. The Eucharist.
On one level, this meal might seem like a reminder of some of the snacks we’ve had elsewhere -- like the cookie and juice we were given by our first grade teacher and like the bag of pretzels and soft drink we are given by the flight attendant. Before we leave here this morning, the ministers and elders will give us a bite of bread and a sip of juice.
But why? This spiritual snack is not needed to help us concentrate on our current tasks nor is it intended to curb our hunger until lunch time.
What’s the purpose of our eating and drinking here in church? Why do we have this tiny little meal in worship?
This is not just a snack. This is not just a nice, attractive little ritual. This is a Sacrament. It is an outward sign of an inward, spiritual grace. It is not just communion – it is HOLY Communion.
Something special happens at this table. Something meaningful and profound.
It is so special, that in Luke’s Gospel it has the power to open the eyes of those who did not recognize Christ – it has the power, in the words of these disciples, to make their hearts burn with passion.
But --- why?
Why is this such an important part of who we are as Christians?
What is this meal all about?
One reason we do this is simple obedience.
Christ commanded us to celebrate this meal on a regular basis. When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, he told us to “do this.”
He didn’t say, “if you happen to do this that would be nice,” or “if you would like to do this from time to time.”
It was a definite, clear cut – do this!
When we come to the Lord’s Table, we are expressing a commitment to be obedient to Jesus Christ.
In the Old Testament book of Isaiah, chapter one, the prophet writes this:
18 "Come now, let us reason together,"
says the LORD.
"Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
you will eat the best from the land;
Our obedience is a willing expression.
We are not slaves. God does not oppress us. We are invited into a life of discipleship, and an important aspect of that discipleship is a willing obedience to obey Him.
One of the dynamics of this Sacrament is that by doing this, we are living out our obedience to Christ.
Communion helps us to know to whom we should be obedient.
John Kenneth Galbraith, in his autobiography, A Life in Our Times, illustrates the devotion of Emily Gloria Wilson, his family’s housekeeper:
It had been a hard day, and he asked his housekeeper Emily to hold all telephone calls while he took a nap. Shortly thereafter the phone rang. Lyndon Johnson was calling from the White House.
"Get me Ken Galbraith. This is Lyndon Johnson."
"He is sleeping, Mr. President. He said not to disturb him."
"Well, wake him up. I want to talk to him."
"No, Mr. President. I work for him, not you.”
When Galbraith returned the President’s call, Johnson was delighted and tried his best to convince the housekeeper to leave her job and work for him. It is, after all, rare to find someone who has that sort of focused obedience. (John Kenneth Galbraith, A Life in Our Times, Houghton Mifflin, Reader’s Digest, December, 1981.)
We live in a world where all sorts of things are calling for our attention. Work, pleasures, greed – are we to obey them – or can we focus our obedience onto God?
Communion helps us to focus obedience onto the Lord.
Participating in this sacrament is an act of obedience, but why?
Why does Christ command us to do this?
Earlier in Luke’s Gospel, we read the familiar story. If you have been in this church for a while, you have heard these words over and over. On the night in which Christ was betrayed, he met with his disciples for a meal. After the meal, he took the bread and broke it and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body given for you, do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:9)
Why are we to obey Christ and “do this” – we do it to remember.
How do we remember people and events in our lives?
If you want to remember something or someone, what do you do?
You might take photographs and put them in an album.
From time to time, you take the photo album out of the cabinet and open it and look at the photographs – and you remember.