Summary: A sermon on the meaning and importance of communion.
Today, we are back at the start of the new month and we are looking at the value again of worship. The type of worship that we practice is what we would call Christ-centered worship. Christ is the center of our worship experience. Today we are going to talk about what I would consider one of the essential ingredients of worship and that is what we would refer to as Communion. If we value Christ-centered worship then the communion table will be the centerpiece of worship because it is at the communion table where we remember Christ and his sacrifice for us. In other words, at the communion table is where we begin to reflect on the core meaning of the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is what we are going to look at today. We are going to look at the meaning of communion. Really, you can consider this either a shortened sermon or an extended communion meditation because I am not going to follow with another communion meditation. From this, we are going to go right into our time of prayer and then followed with that right into our time of communion. Before we look at today’s passage, I wanted to remind us that we are all familiar with different types of communion. A lot of you come from different church backgrounds so you have experienced communion in a variety of ways. Usually the variety has to do with things like the frequency of communion. It has to do with the method of communion, but it also has to do with the meaning of communion. What is the core meaning behind communion? As much as I would love to spend a long time on talking about the various methods and meanings behind communion, I really don’t have the time to do that today so what I thought I would do is just kind of talk about what I would call the two major views of communion, the two extreme views of communion, and then help you realize that really everything else is just kind of a variation on those two views. Those two views are what I would refer to as a high church view and a low church view.
I want to talk first about this idea of a high church view. I suspect we have a few Catholics or former Catholics in here. Raise your hand. Don’t be ashamed. Be proud. Like my dad said “Once a Catholic always a Catholic.” The Catholic view is what I would call the high view of communion. A very high, exalted view of communion. My Catholic theology is a little but rusty so don’t criticize it too much, but the idea of what happens at the Catholic mass is that everything in that mass leads up to the communion. In fact, communion is the last thing you do before you head out the door. That is why when communion starts people start heading out the door. It is really the last thing that happens before dismissal. In fact, the word mass comes from the word dismissal. If you know your catechism you might know that when the priest gets up there and he opens up what they would call the tabernacle, the little metal container, it is not like he is just doing a normal preparation for communion. He is up there actually doing something that is amazing. He is actually getting ready to consecrate the bread, the host, the Eucharist, and the wine at which point when it is consecrated, when he invokes the word of Christ, their belief is that the host, the Eucharist, and the wine actually turn into the real presence of Jesus Christ. The absolute presence of Jesus Christ. Consequently, when that happens, at that point, people that come and take communion they come and bow down. They are bowing down before what they believe to be Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, in the wine. That is why in the old times it used to be that you couldn’t even touch the host. The priest would have to place it directly on your tongue. That is what is happening there. There is actually a 50-cent word for that whole idea of it turning into the actual substance of Jesus Christ. Does anybody know what that word might be? Transubstantiation. That is a long word. That is a fun word to say. It is the belief that by the power of God at the consecration in the mass, the bread and the wine change substance into the actual substance of Jesus’ body and blood even though they seem to retain their natural characteristics. That is a high, high view of communion. They believe it actually turns into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. When I was growing up as a young boy at St. Ann’s Parish in St. Louis, MO I remember sitting there in those long pews and being a little bored and fidgety like most kids are in church but when the priest got up there and he started ringing the bells and that sort of thing, I knew that something was about to happen. It would always get my attention. I remember him getting up there and ringing that bell I knew that something was going to attempt to draw my focus to what was going on there and I actually believed that while he was up there the host and the wine were turning into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. I would strain my neck to look around the bald man in front of me to see if I could actually see this happening as if I expected Jesus to kind of pop out from under the altar or something like that, which he never did. I still retain that sense of awe. To this day, when I take communion out to a shut-in and I come back home and I have those little chicklets that are left over, I am afraid to throw them away because it is like I am throwing away Jesus’ body or something like that. I feel this little twinge of guilt that I am throwing away the host because you can’t just get rid of a host like that. That is what I would call the high view of communion.