Summary: Explains the purpose and meaning of communion from a Methodist theological persepctive
Image: Nathan Hale Nathan Hale was a young man who had every prospect for a happy and fulfilling life. He was very well educated for his day—a Yale graduate in an era when very few went to college. He was vividly remembered and admired by his acquaintances even 60 years after his death. Accounts from classmates, friends, relatives, fellow soldiers, teachers, and students all say he was kind, gentle, religious, athletic, intelligent, good looking and as one contemporary testified, “the idol of all his acquaintances.” In 1775, Hale accepted a commission as 1st lieutenant in the Connecticut Regiment and later served under Washington as the commander of a ranger company whose mission was forward reconnaissance. One evening in September, 1776, Hale was captured as a spy. After making a “spirited speech” to those few who were there, the former schoolteacher and Yale graduate was executed by hanging—an extremely ignominious and horrible fate to one of his time and class. Upon his hanging, he spoke the words by which he was remembered, “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”
The author Circian says about Hale: “An insignificant schoolteacher who never wrote anything important, never owned any property, never had a permanent job, never married or had children, never fought in a battle and who failed in his final mission—made history in the last few seconds of this life. And there is a familiar ring in the story of Nathan Hale, an echo from 1743 years prior. Jesus, who was kind gentle, religious, who never personally wrote anything important, had no where to lay his head, never married or had children, who in the world’s eyes failed at his final mission—made history in the last few seconds of his life. When we come to this table we remember the last moments of a dying man—“Christ Jesus, who died for us.”
Why communion? The very first thing we do in communion is remember. What do we to remember? We remember 3 things Jesus did at the Last Supper. First, Jesus took the bread. That act of taking or receiving calls us to remember the gift of God. Now bread is one of the most basic elements of the sustenance of life. As a matter of fact it is so basic to every part of the world that it is the first item your server places on the table, no matter where you are. For generations, it has been the staple of our diet. When my dad was in seminary, money was never in great supply. There was a large Bunny Bread factory across the street. And when the bread was just done baking you could smell it for miles, and that’s all you could think about. For a nickel he could buy a loaf of bread unsliced out the back door of that bread factory and then he would walk over to the Piggly Wiggly and buy a stick of butter, slit the bread, stick it in and then wrap it up and walk home to their dorm room apartment. And my parents feasted. Whenever Giovanna bakes bread, the dessert for that night is the first slice of bread out of the oven smothered with butter. And it just melts in your mouth and you cannot believe how wonderfully good it tastes. You know what that’s like. The focus is how wonderfully tasty this bread is.
Here’s the problem, you can begin to worship the gift rather than the giver. Bread is the gift but you can begin to focus on the gift rather than the one who gave the gift. And that can lead to worshipping the gift rather than worshipping the giver. You live to eat, that’s the danger, instead of eating to live. Everything in this world is a gift of God but sometimes we forget that and instead focus on the things of this world. That’s exactly what Satan tried to do with Jesus in his temptation in the wilderness. He him to take that focus, power and energy for his purpose and mission, and instead focus that on making bread and satisfying his hunger. And the same is true for us: we can spend so much of our time and energy on making bread and preparing and eating the bread instead of worshipping the God who gave us the bread in the first place. Slide with 3 Scriptures Jesus said, “People do not live by bread alone but every word that comes out of the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4 Jesus said, “Do not work for food that spoils but for the food that endures for eternal life which the son of Man will give you.” John 6:27 I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never be hungry.” John 6:35 That is what we called to remember every time we come to this table. But it’s so tempting to do otherwise. We can focus on work and begin to worship work. We can focus on money, power and prestige and begin to worship that. But Jesus says No, no, no, no, I am the bread of life. I am the gift of God so when we come to this table, we see the gift of Jesus for us and remember that I don’t live by bread alone but by Jesus at the center of my life.