Written Sermons & Bible Studies

The Miracle of Communion

 

Today we are in part two of our series on communion. To understand the full value of communion in our life and in our relationship with God, we need to look at the stories of Jesus’s resurrection.

 

 

When Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection, they were lost and confused. They couldn’t remember what Jesus taught until he told them. They were joyful, but in disbelief. Jesus needed to open their minds and build their faith. Without Jesus Christ opening their minds, the disciples were unable to understand the Scriptures. They were powerless, scared, and weak. Jesus told them to wait. In the coming days, they would receive power from the Holy Spirit.

 

 

The disciples were disoriented by the events leading up to Resurrection Sunday. Then  Jesus appeared to them in a closed room. No words could describe what they saw. At the time of the disciples, there were four myths around the dead coming back to haunt the living. There were ghosts.  Jesus wasn’t a ghost. There were revenants—or the walking dead. He was not revived as a walking corpse. Some believed that great leaders were taken up to be with the gods. Jesus was still on earth. Fourth, revered heroes remained around as spirits after death. Jesus was no hero. Nothing described what the disciples saw. Resurrection became a whole new experience both in the physical reality, but also in the imagination. No one imagined resurrection until Jesus did it.

 

 

Like the disciples, when we experience Christ, he brings disorientation into our lives. We are self-centered beings that need to be upended. When our equilibrium gets messed up, we become open to a deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit. Until Christ appeared to the disciples, they understood Jesus only partially. They missed most of the story of Jesus. They only looked at Jesus through their expectations and failed to see the Lord that walked with them. It took the shock of his appearances after his resurrection to break the disciples out of their limited understanding.

 

 

Today, we are talking about communion. To come to the table of Christ, I believe we must allow the experience to disorient us. In communion, we invite Christ to shake up our expectations and open our imagination. Communion can reorient our relationship with God and our relationship with neighbors.

 

 

In our reading today the disciples were lost, disoriented, confused, scared, and depressed. And then, in walks a living Jesus. With no teether to reality, the disciples slowly came to terms with God’s plan. They watched the Gospel of Christ become a reality. Only in the cyclone of confusion did they lose their footing enough to believe what they were seeing in front of their eyes.

 

 

Our reading today comes from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 24, verses 36-49.

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  They were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.  He said to them,  “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them,  “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

 

Our reading invites us into the mystery of the Gospel. We experience with the disciples the resurrection of Jesus. I think it is easy to tame the story told by Luke. Let’s not tame it; go back to the moment when Jesus appeared. Imagine you are a disciple, and Jesus appears before you. You have some stories and myths to process his appearance through. You know what a ghost is supposed to look like and behave like.

 

 

But Jesus is real. He has a body and can eat—he is not a ghost. He died, he was buried, he was in a tomb and then the tomb was empty. Unlike Enoch and Elijah who God took to heaven, God did not lift Jesus off the cross and teleport him to heaven. Jesus is not spirit. If God lifted Jesus to heaven, he would not have been buried. If he came back as a spirit, the tomb would not be empty.

 

 

Jesus is not the walking dead. If he was, he couldn’t disappear like he did in our story.

 

 

On the one hand, the resurrected Jesus is not any of the mythical dead people. On the other hand, he could be described as all the mythical dead people. None of the scary categories of dead people coming back to haunt the living works for the resurrection of Jesus. Nothing prepared the disciples for what they saw. Nothing in any ancient experience anticipated the resurrection.

 

 

By the way, this is proof of the divinity of Christ. If there is no description in the literature or the religious writings at the time to describe the resurrection, and if no one had previously imagined the resurrection in any form, then its historical legitimacy and truth is very high. Luke’s description of the disciples’ disorientation and inability to comprehend the resurrection makes it a reality.

 

 

In my life, I have had moments when I was disoriented and lost. When I had cancer, it disoriented my life. I didn’t know how to move forward. It disoriented Jan’s life. How would she move forward without me and raise a toddler and a preschooler? After cancer, my priorities completely shifted, and I really didn’t know how to navigate life. I knew something was different, but I did not have a handle on what that meant or where it would lead. For a long time, neither one of us were comfortable imagining a future.

 

 

I lost my footing, the anchors that formed my life were gone. I was looking for hand holds to pull myself up and to recenter my life.

It can be uncomfortable to lose the anchors that stabilize your life. The disciples lost Jesus, their anchor to God. They lost hope. Then into the room appeared Jesus! But what kind of Jesus? A resurrected Jesus. That disrupted their life. Later, it would motivate and empower them to carry the message of a risen Lord throughout the world.

 

 

 

The resurrection was a miracle. Miracles disrupt our lives. Can you think of a miracle that hasn’t disrupted your life? Even the miracles of life that are a normal part of the human experience disrupt our lives. Consider a baby, or the love of a friend, spouse or child, or a moment of unimaginable beauty. All of these are miracles, and they disrupt our lives.

 

 

In the miracle of the resurrection, God accomplished an unimaginable act of power and grace. God gave us eternal life with God as our Father and with all of those in the body of Christ as our brothers and sisters. The grave cannot not hold us because it could not hold Jesus.

Communion celebrates the resurrection. It celebrates the miracle of Jesus being alive and with God. It also celebrates our immortality as believers in Christ.  I’d like to read from an early Christian writing that describes life in a Christian community. This passage describes how they viewed communion.

 

 

From the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles 10.2, 3 we read, “We give you thanks, holy Father, for your holy name which you have made to dwell in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality which you have made known to us. You are the mighty ruler of all who has created all for your name’s sake, and you have given food and drink to human beings for their enjoyment so that they might give thanks to you. But to us, from your generosity, you have given spiritual food and drink, and life eternal, through your servant.”

 

 

The imagination of early Christians saw the spiritual meaning behind communion. They rejoiced that God the Father loved them and called his people to the heavenly banquet that they would all share eternally. They saw a miracle in communion.

 

 

Because of God’s generosity, the communion table is a welcoming place. It’s a reminder of the radical stuff that Jesus did when he walked the earth. Jesus kept dangerous company. He ate with sinners and tax collectors. He associated with outcasts. He healed Romans. All these dangerous, unacceptable people had a place at the table with Jesus and in the Kingdom of God.   Because Jesus ate with sinners and forgave sinners around a meal, communion is a place of forgiveness and reconciliation.

 

 Christ created a community that shared a meal and life across all social divisions. Poor ate with rich. Slaves shared a table with their owners and masters. Men ate with women. Outcasts ate with the religiously pure and righteous. Gentiles ate with Jews. This was a miracle.

 

During the writing of the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, communion was part of a real meal. If we were like the early Christians, at the end of our carry in dinner, we would celebrate the Lord’s supper and share a spiritual meal through which we receive God’s greatest gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. We may not go as far as our long-lost relatives, but I think we could all benefit from seeing communion as miraculous.

The first communion tables shared a single cup and a single loaf of bread. They ate in unity. To share a cup or a loaf assumed the intimacy of a family.

 

At Place of Grace Fellowship, we do share from a single loaf of bread, and we do drink from a single bottle of juice. As you come forward, pray about the unity you share with the body of Christ and the community that surrounds you here.

 

The first communion tables were open, and as welcoming as the love of our Father God. To welcome is one of our values at Place of Grace Fellowship. Because of God’s grace and acceptance of us, we accept others around our communion table. It is a place for people to discover the goodness and generosity of God.

 

Finally, it is easy to turn communion into an activity. We show up Sunday, we join the parade forward to receive the bread and wine, we return to our seats, maybe visit with a friend and then we take the bread and wine together.

 

Communion is not an activity. It is a miracle. We come to communion to celebrate our eternal life. We come to celebrate our Lord and Savior. We unite with our brothers and sisters around the world and here in our church. We ask the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts. We expect to have our lives recharged. We look to have our love tanks refilled. In communion, Christ feeds us spiritual food. We praise God for the knowledge, faith and immortality that became ours when Jesus rose from the dead!

 

In our Scripture reading today, the resurrected presence of Jesus disoriented and rocked the world of the disciples. It ushered in our eternal life. When we take communion, let it transport us back two thousand years to that room where Jesus appeared and ate a fish and shared a meal with his disciples. Grasp the miracle that takes place in that room. Now, experience that miracle anew as you come forward and share a meal with your risen Lord.

 

About Pastor Tim

Tim Holmes

Senior Pastor

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