Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Remember, remember

I was thinking the other day about communion.
Not just the ritual
But about the whole concept of communion.

Communion is an amazingly rich word.  Of course there is the concept of “communion” as a sacred meal. When we use the word in the church we tend to go right to that place, and we think about the ritual.  But the word communion has all kinds of meanings – meanings that I think can really help us understand this meal, of which we are about to partake.

Indeed I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the concept of communion can teach us an incredible amount about the life we as God’s people are called to lead.

So, what is communion?  According to the dictionary:
  1. The act or an instance of sharing, as of thoughts or feelings.
  2. Religious or spiritual fellowship
  3. A fellowship, a close relation [ships] between two or more persons."
  4. Intimate, heart-searching introspection.

As I began to think about those definitions, all kinds of things began to run through my head.  And then I started to think about other words related to the concept of communion.  Communication…..  Commune  (OK, I’ll give you a break, just in case you can’t get past Rashneespuram .. think community instead). . . .

The more I thought about the word, the more certain key concepts kept coming into my head.
o   The concept of being “in common”  Being tied together but ideas, values, beliefs… even love
o   The concept of sharing… of sharing ideas, resources, love, concern
o   The concept of depth.  So often communion is used to talk not just about interaction, about deep, profound interaction…. A deep intimate, honest, connection with other people
o   The concept of intimacy… being intimately connected…

So I had all these ideas rolling around in my head… and I wanted to figure out how I could apply these ideas to this meal we Christians call communion.  Because I have to tell you, I’ve always struggled a little bit with communion.  We participate in communion over and over again.  In our church, once a month, in some churches, 4 times a year; in other churches every Sunday, or more!  And frankly I’ve sometimes found it less than inspiring. 

But then there is that word, and it rich meanings….
When in doubt, explore the scriptures.  Kind of like reading the instructions.
One passage that profoundly informs our thinking about communion is the one we heard from Exodus.  There is no doubt that God’s great act of redemption, represented in the Passover meal is tied into another great act of redemption, the cross, the one represented in communion.

Another great passage about communion is I Corinthians, chapter 11… Here is a whole chapter in which Paul was talking to a church….talking to them about communion because they were totally missing the point.

Seems like these folk were getting together, celebrating a meal, an early version of communion -- and it was a disaster.  There was no community, every one was focused on him or her self, seeking approval, notice, spiritual status….”God likes me best!”

And they were grasping - some were grabbing all the food, all the drink (obviously they weren’t drinking grape juice and eating bread cubes), to the point that some were getting drunk and others were being left out….Reminds me of the old camp prayer  “Father and Son and Holy Ghost, who gets here first, gets the most”

So Paul decides it is time for a little lesson on communion.
What I’d like to do is share what jumped out at me.

First key verse….”And when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 1 Corinthians 11:24

In remembrance.  Remembrance of what?  Remembrance of Christ.  Of Christ’s life, Christ’s death, Christ’s resurrection.  Of Christ -- who he was -- but more what he had done.  And what had he done?  He had brought forgiveness, hope, power, vision, love -- above all he had brought communion.  On the cross he had destroyed the barriers that exists between people and God.  And people and people.  It was a mighty act.  One we should remember.

But God knows we have a memory problem.  Look at Exodus.  In Exodus the people of Israel had a memory problem.  As things got tough they forgot everything God had done.  All they wanted to do is go back to Egypt.

And so God, when he performs his first mighty action of liberation, an act in which the angel of death “passed over” the people of Israel, gave them a meal, the Passover.  The purpose of the meal?  To remind the all too forgetful people of what he had done.  He says to the people.  Remember… remember what I have done. Remember how the angel of death passed over .

Remember.  Remember, because it is so easy, in the midst of the world, to forget.

Same thing with the Lords Supper.  It is an act of remembrance.  It is a time to remember what god has done!  “What wondrous love God has for us, that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us”.  We remember that in Christ God showed his love in an unmistakable way.  In a way that should leave no questions no doubts….
So what else can we learn about this meal.

A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 1 Corinthians 11:28.  Communion is a time to connect with ourselves.  One of the definitions of communion is that it involves introspection, heart searches.

That’s scary!  But liberating.  It means communion is a time for people to be with God, as they are!!  No masks!  Remember that phrase.  While we were yet sinners!  No pretension, no “trying to show who has God’s approval.”  Nope, at this table we are all sinners… we can be who we are… mistakes, failures, weaknesses… because true communion involves a deep connection, at the level of the heart.
When I was in high school and had finally gotten the keys to the car… and I might say it was quite a car…. 1960 Willy’s Jeep Station wagon…Straight six with 3 on the floor….  When I was in HS with that wonderful freedom that comes from being 16, 17, with wheels, I would start to walk out the door toward my car, ready to go to a dance, be with friends…. And every time I left my mother would say these words… every time.  “Remember who you are”  Now this was meant to be a deterrent, no question.  Remember that you are Dr. Kliewer’s son.  You are a member of this family, and this  family ALWAYS behaves….
Communion is a time to remember who we are. And the great news is that in Christ we are children of God.  In Christ we are forgiven and loved.  In Christ we are new creations.  In Christ we are people set free
OK, I don’t want to go too long, so one more thought… and this is extremely critical.  Paul writes. ”Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” 1 Corinthians 10:16. 
Communion is about being together.  As those loved and forgiven by God… as those free to be who they really are.  This meal is about God.  But it is also about us… as those who are in God together.  As those who have been loved by God together. As those who can be real, together.
Any time you participate in communion, look around the room… look at the faces.  Every face you look at say,  “Christ died for that person.”  That young person, that older person, that man, that woman, that person who been so wonderful… that person who had made so many mistakes… As you see each face, remember Christ died for that person – and for you.
Communion is not an individualistic matter; it is a body of Christ matter. We commune as a body; we come to the Lord's table as a family. This truth is bound up in the biblical symbol of the one loaf and the one cup
One last important truth
It is not JUST a meal of remembrance.
Because God not only DID something, God DOES something

Yes, when we take communion we believe the sacred is present, and God makes something happen.  God is present --  working, giving us insight, binding us together.  Being truly present and working acts of restoration and love
Touching our hearts

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