For most of Christian history, the central element of both corporate worship and individual prayer has been regular participation in the sacrament of Communion. Indeed, the Roman Catholic mass still centers on the Eucharist (as the Lord’s Supper is also called) as the priest consecrates the elements of bread and wine and invites the people of God to share in the body of Christ.
And while I share the Reformer’s opinion that, by the 16th century, the sacrament had become distorted in a manner that bordered on “magic”(seeing the priest being the agent who literally transformed the bread and wine into the physical body and blood of Jesus), their efforts to restore the Bible to the center of the Christian life has had the unintended consequence of pushing Communion to the periphery.
In far too many churches the sacraments are celebrated terribly rarely (I grew up in a church that celebrated Communion quarterly) and with such overwrought reverence that it has become empty ritual once again! Ugh! How much the early church saw things differently!
The sacrament is the very invitation our hearts are longing for – the direct call of God to come and be present with him. In the Lord’s Supper we are being offered a seat at the family table of the Father and Son, who fills the bread and cup not with physical flesh and blood of Jesus, but with his Spirit. There we have the opportunity to make direct contact with the God of love and compassion, if only we can learn to open ourselves to receive it. Such preparation is not about purifying one’s life (or who could come?) or the proper ritual to prepare the scene (Jesus never once stood on ceremony!), but about being present to ourselves and understanding – intellectually and emotionally – what is being offered to us.
This is a sermon that was originally presented at Canvas (a Presbyterian church in Irvine, CA), March 1, 2015. To learn more about Canvas, click here!
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