Tim Fletcher’s sermon on 12th February 2017
Readings: Luke 22: 14-20
1 Corinthians 11: 23-26
What’s in a meal?
Is it just to keep our body working – just food & drink for the physical body?
Or is it more than that…
At tea time… a chance to catch up on how the family are doing
At a birthday party… great to have family & friends there
At a wedding… the wedding breakfast their 1st meal as husband & wife with those special to them
At a funeral… the wake is hugely important time to say we here for you
At an anniversary
At a church meal or weekend away
At a work do
Alpha course starts with a meal
What’s in a meal? Is it just food & drink for the physical body or is it something social & spiritual too – is it food & drink for the soul too?
Meals are hugely important in the Bible.
When the people of God:
were released from slavery in Egypt
were led by Moses from being prisoners into freedom
were saved by God & effectively moved from death into life
what were they told to do?
In the 2nd book of the Bible, Exodus tells the story of how they were to have a celebratory meal of roast lamb & unleavened bread & they were to celebrate this every year to REMEMBER their escape.
They were to do this as FAMILIES & if one family was too small then they were join up with their next door neighbour.
It was a way of passing on their good news story from one generation to the next – PROCLAIMING the fact that God had saved them!
Ex12:26 reads, ‘when your children ask you “what does this ritual mean?” you shall answer “it is the sacrifice of Passover to honour the LORD because he … spared us”’
That was 1500 BC & Jews continue to celebrate this meal every year. It is a visual & verbal PROCLAIMING & REMEMBERING of their faith TOGETHER.
And this is the meal that Jesus celebrated with his disciples as he introduced them to what we now call Holy Communion, as He brought new significance, life-changing significance to the Passover meal.
And again, as he does so we see these 3 key elements of:
REMEMBERING their salvation
PROCLAIMNG their faith
Celebrating TOGETHER as family
In this way Holy Communion is a visible & verbal proclaiming of our faith, remembering Jesus together.
Let’s look at these 3 elements of proclaiming, remembering & being together as we look at the reading from 1Co11.
Firstly v26 reads, ‘this means that every time you eat this bread & drink from the cup you PROCLAIM the Lord’s death until he comes’.
The simple issue of taking a piece of bread and drinking a sip of wine, such ordinary things, take on huge significance for humankind:
The bread signifies the body of Jesus broken in death
The wine signifies the blood of Jesus poured out in death
And through Jesus’ death comes a new covenant, a new relationship with God. The old covenant, the old relationship with God was based on the 10 commandments & humankind’s agreement.
God kept his side of the bargain but humankind kept failing in their side, kept letting God down; & we do don’t we?
There needed to be something better
There needed to be Jesus:
who brings God’s forgiveness for the past
as God in us to help us for the future
This is the new covenant that we celebrate in bread & wine:
God forgives us through Jesus’ death & resurrection
God is in us through the Holy Spirit to help us live Godly lives
That is the good news we need to keep PROCLAIMING to ourselves, to keep PROCLAINING to anyone who will listen.
And in our Communion service booklets in the Thanksgiving Prayer we declare:
The God of our Creation
The God of our Redemption
The God who Dwells in us
Secondly v24-5 read ‘the Lord Jesus Christ on the night that he was betrayed took a piece of bread, gave thanks to God, broke it & said, “this is my body which is for you. Do this in MEMORY of me.” In the same way after supper he took the cup and said, “this cup is God’s new covenant, sealed with my blood. Whenever you drink it, do so in MEMORY of me.”
Actions help us to REMEMBER.
Four key actions which demonstrate what Jesus went through on our behalf:
The bread is taken & given thanks over and broken & shared with others: as a visible sign that Jesus was taken & given thanks over and broken in his death & shared out for others.
The wine is taken & given thanks over and poured out & shared with others: as a visible sign that Jesus was taken & given thanks over and that His blood was poured out in death & that He is shared with others.
And in our Communion service booklets in the Thanksgiving Prayer we always physically demonstrate these 4 actions of taking, thanking, breaking or pouring and sharing; with the bread & wine to help us REMEMBER what Jesus did for us.
Thirdly v23 reads, ‘For I received from the Lord the teaching that I passed on to you.’
The letter to the Corinthians was to a body of Christians, a community of Christians- the sentences that we read in our lesson today are to a family of Christians. The verbs & nouns are plural – not to an individual but to a community: we need each other
we need to remember TOGETHER
we need to proclaim TOGETHER
we need to proclaim faith to each other
Ex 12:26 says, ‘‘when your children ask you “what does this ritual mean?” you shall answer “it is the sacrifice of Passover to honour the LORD because he spared us”’
It is a family meal – young & old.
In our Communion service booklets we say, ‘we break this bread to share in the body of Christ. Though we are many we are ONE BODY because we all share in one bread.’
ONE BODY – last week in our baptism service, we said to Eloise, Emily & Elissa, ‘we are all baptised into ONE BODY, we welcome you, we are children of the same heavenly Father.’
Holy Communion is a family meal – young & old, sharing TOGETHER.
PROCLAIMING Jesus & REMEMBERING Jesus TOGETHER as family.
And what is our response?
Firstly can I encourage us to want to share in Holy Communion together?
Our gospel reading today starts off with Jesus saying, ‘I have wanted so much to eat this Passover Meal with you before I suffer.’ He wanted so much to show them, through bread & wine what he was going to do for them.
Let us want so much to share in this Holy Communion meal as an opportunity:
to proclaim our faith to each other
to remember our faith with each other
to celebrate our oneness in Jesus
Secondly can I encourage us to think about those 4 actions of taking, being thanked over, breaking or pouring and sharing, not only to REMEMBER what Jesus did for us but also as our RESPONSE to what Jesus did for us:
may we be taken in His service
may we be thanked over & blessed in His service
may we be broken or poured out in His service (offering ourselves sacrificially in His service, taking up our cross to follow Him: freely you have received, freely give)
may we be shared in His service for the benefit of others
In our Communion service booklets, in the last section, as we prepare to leave, we say, ‘Almighty God, we thank you for feeding us with the body & blood of your Son Jesus Christ. Through him we offer you our souls and bodies to be a living sacrifice . Send us out in the power of your Spirit to live and work to your praise and glory. Amen.’
Holy Communion is more than a simple meal.
It is an opportunity:
to PROCLAIM our faith in Jesus who forgives us & gives us fresh start
to REMEMBER Jesus who was taken, given thanks over, broken & poured out and shared for our benefit
to celebrate our TOGETHERNESS as the family of God & to offer ourselves afresh in His service.Amen.