Summary: Message discusses what this practice is about and who is invited to the Lord’s Table, particularly from a Weslyean perspective.
(Thanks to Bob Hostetler for ideas for this message. I’ve added a Methodist twist to the message. Powerpoint and audience outline available).
A little girl asked her mother, “Mommy, why do you cut the ends off the meat
before you cook it?”
The girl’s mother told her that she thought it added to the flavor by allowing the meat to better absorb the spices, but perhaps she should ask her grandmother since she always did it that way.
So the little girl found her grandmother and asked, “Grandma, why do you and Mommy cut the ends of the meat off before you cook it?”
Her grandmother thought a moment and answered, “I think it allows the meat to stay tender because it soaks up the juices better, but why don’t you ask your Nana? After all, I learned from her, and she always did it that way.”
The little girl was getting a little frustrated, but climbed up in her great-grandmother’s lap and asked, “Nana, why do you cut the ends off the meat
before you cook it?”
Nana answered, “I had to; my cooking pot wasn’t big enough.”
We do a lot of things in life, and seldom stop to ask why. We develop habits and traditions, and if we’re not careful, we can forget why we do certain things...
In the weeks ahead I will be talking about what it means to come together as a group to worship God. Today I want to discuss what it means to share communion as a part of a worship experience.
Here at Bethany, we make communion available every other month—this habit of sharing bread and grape juice together as part of our Sunday morning celebration. I don’t know how that tradition was established in our church—you were doing it before I came here as your pastor. Some churches have communion once a month, others once every three months, and still others every week.
On average we have communion about 7 or 8 times a year—we also do it the week before Easter on Thursday night because that’s the night Jesus first introduced his followers to this special meal on the night before his death.
It was interesting to me that on our recent worship survey a number of people responded that they thought we celebrate the Lord’s Supper about the right number of times per year in our church. In fact, several of you, stated that you believe that if we have communion too often it will lose its meaning.
Now that’s even more interesting for me because our heritage as Methodists would imply that we should have communion several times a week. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement in England in the 18th Century encouraged his Methodists groups to go to communion as often as they could at the local Anglican church.
In his sermon, “The Duty of Constant Communion,” Wesley said
“I am to show that it is the duty of every Christian to receive the Lord’s Supper as often as he can. “
The First reason why it is the duty of every Christian so to do is, because it is a plain command of Christ. …. Observe, too, that this command was given by our Lord when he was just laying down his life for our sakes. They are, therefore, as it were, his dying words to all his followers.
Maybe as Methodists we’ve decided not to take the Lord’s supper every Sunday so we can have room for there big meals Sunday afternoon.
Some congregations, I understand, have even dropped the communion service from the regular morning worship hour, just inviting those who wish to partake to go to another room for the Lord’s Supper after the service or serving it during the week. The reasoning, I’m told, is that the strange practice of taking the loaf and cup frightens away “seekers” or guests who visit the church.
Don’t they realize that the Lord’s Supper is the greatest evangelistic tool we have? Paul says through the proper observance of the Supper “you proclaim the death of the Lord till He comes” (I Corinthians 11:26). John Wesley taught that Communion should be served to believers and non believers alike. The Communion service is certainly a greater aid to evangelism than a cross on a church building, or on a necklace.
Robert Tinsky was reared in Judaism. Dissatisfied spiritually, he visited a Christian Church for the first time, seeking some religious truth. He was astounded by the observance of the Lord’s Supper. He didn’t understand it. He asked some young people seated near him what it meant. They faithfully told him the gospel story as portrayed in the loaf and cup. He was amazed that there was a God who loved humankind enough to give His Son to die for us and at the wisdom that originated such a living memorial. He became a Christian and a faithful preacher of the gospel.