Sunday, January 02, 2005

On Holy Communion for this New Year 2005

Text: Luke 22:7-20; 28-30

Here's the complete text for Luke 22:7-30

Or check it out in The Message

This morning, the first Sunday of the New Year 2005, we celebrated Holy Communion; Luke 22 traditionally has been a Maundy Thursday text, but it also is highly appropriate for this early January winter Sunday.

Because of our humanity, our lives need meaning if they are going to be bearable; we feel almost compelled to seek meaning in our own individual worlds and often in those worlds beyond our immediate grasp. We may passively be able to endure in surroundings not of our own making or choosing, but we're unlikely to keep on deliberately performing an action unless it says something to us and about us, unless there would be an empty space in our lives without it. Every Christian community throughout the world keeps celebrating Holy Communion as part of the community's life together: since that adds up to a lot of people in a lot of very different countries and cultures, there must be a lot that's meaningful about this sacrament!

Wherever in the Bible we read an account of the eucharistic "founding meal"—we can find it in one of Paul's letters to Corinth as well as in three of the gospels—whenever we read about it, it evokes familiar images and rings with unforgettable phrases. Possibly the central picture is Jesus' sharing a meal with his friends; no matter if it's Leonardo's Renaissance Italy or first century Palestine, the reality is the same, and precisely what Jesus shows us with his entire life is how very, very transferable and translatable that supper is. We hear a familiar phrase when at the supper, while Jesus breaks the bread and blesses the wine, he tells us to do what he does—"in remembrance." Do this religious ritual? Jesus' world already had plenty of religious rituals. Our world has enough of those, too—plus rituals for just about every other facet and aspect of our lives.

Throughout his life Jesus shows us in words and actions the way it's supposed to be in God's world, in God's sovereignty, and four times in the seventeen verses of Luke 22:7-20 and verses 28-30 Jesus mentions the Kingdom, telling us it is his Kingdom and our Kingdom. Jesus shows us how God participates in our world so we are able to participate in God's world; Jesus reveals to us a worldview that is at a 180-degree angle to most common ideas of religion and religiousness.

Jesus calls the bread his broken body and calls the fruit of the vine the blood of the New Covenant; Jesus tells us, he tells us here in this city and now in January 2005 the bread is his body broken for us and the wine is blood of that New Covenant of grace he came to bring to us and for us, and says he'll take part in this festal meal again when the worldview of the Kingdom of God is a fact among us; then, at that time, he'll celebrate with us once more.

A religious ritual? There are plenty of those. "In memory?" We keep on celebrating this sacrament, this communion, this eucharist, with each other. And we're not likely to keep on performing an action unless it has meaning, unless it says something to us and about us.

If we are to remember Jesus, do we need bread and wine? Aren't there other ways? Well, throughout the records of Jesus' life there are accounts of Jesus feeding other people and feasting with his friends; Jesus repeatedly talks about those who will banquet in the Kingdom...and about giving his body for the life of the world.

Here's how The Message version of the New Testament says it:
24 Within minutes they were bickering over who of them would end up the greatest. 25 But Jesus intervened: "Kings like to throw their weight around and people in authority like to give themselves fancy titles. 26 It's not going to be that way with you. Let the senior among you become like the junior; let the leader act the part of the servant.
There it is again, that old human thing of wanting to be powerful, great, important and admired by all! In Jesus we meet one who shows us all creation, all life and all persons are sacred or holy and worthy of being served. In addition, the Kingdom of God we meet in Jesus is nothing like a traditional kingdom where the have-nots and the have-a-littles wait on the haves; in its place, we find real community with God's justice and mercy graciously at work in the world so hunger, greed and need, judgment and exclusion are wiped out—so forgiveness of the past means and becomes the beginnings of new life. The Reign of God, this Welcome Table, and Jesus given for us on Calvary are tightly bound together.

Again in Eugene Peterson's Message version of the Bible we hear Jesus asking:
27 "Who would you rather be: the one who eats the dinner or the one who serves the dinner? You'd rather eat and be served, right? But I've taken my place among you as the one who serves. 28 And you've stuck with me through thick and thin. 29 Now I confer on you the royal authority my Father conferred on me 30 so you can eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and be strengthened as you take up responsibilities among the congregations of God's people.
Not only do we anticipate, celebrate and commemorate as we break bread and offer wine, but we carry with us beyond this building this microcosm of a redeemed world that has been created by us and God, between us and God. As we live lives in service to others and service in the world, remembering Jesus, who lived among us as "one who serves," we ourselves become a living and a life-giving memory of Jesus so in us, the Church of Jesus Christ, called by the Holy Spirit to be a servant people, Jesus again becomes alive in the world and we become sacraments mediating between God in Christ and the world, offering the world a living connection to the heaven of God's Reign here on earth.

"...eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and be strengthened as you take up responsibilities among the congregations of God's people!" Towards the end of Luke's Gospel, regarding one of Jesus' appearances after the resurrection, it says, "when Jesus was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him." Like God called Jesus of Nazareth, God calls us to be visible, tangible signs of God-with-us, God-for-us, God-among-us, of the Kingdom belonging to God, to Jesus, to us and to all creation!

So what are we, God's servant people, planning to do during this newly-minted year, 2005? Where are we, God's representatives in Christ Jesus, going to be when the world cries and grieves with pain and hurt? Where will people find us when our neighbors are in need? Will we be making our world into a sanctuary, a holy place, a foretaste of the Royal, Kingly Reign of God on earth, giving the world reason to celebrate? Will the world recognize us as the body of Christ when we pour out our lives with compassion just as we break this eucharistic bread? I hope so!

Amen!

3 comments:

cygnus/f3 said...

+Leah Sophia, I really liked the sermon! Thanks.

Peace & blessings,
+Fred

Anonymous said...

I found this site and wanted to make note of my testimony of the power of Jesus Christ being broken for us. In the drinking of His Word and sharing in the brokeness of His body our eyes are opened and He takes up residence in our lives answering the question, "What would Jesus do?" with passionate obedience to His will worked through us.
Thank you for inspiring and reminding us of the purpose for which we commune with God through Christ Jesus.
May we all abound in faithfulness as we embody the living expression of His will. We can boldly proclaim,"HE LIVES" and His Life is a light ablaze in our hearts, drawing others out of darkness into His marvelous Light.

Anonymous said...

amen!

:)Anita