HOLY COMMUNION

Originally Posted in February 2021

What it means to us. What it means to Him 

Introduction:

God did something special in giving this message to me!  I’m taking none of the credit for this fresh look at words spoken at events that happened over two thousand years ago. The story is not new, it’s His entirely.  As the song says, ‘God is good all the time.  All the time, God is good!’  Yes He is! 

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What we’ve come to refer to by such terms as ‘Holy Week’ is here.  No doubt there will be many sermons preached on the Church’s observance of Communion.  This observance is also referred to as a rite, and observance, a ceremony, a sacrement, service.  By what ever your local assembly calls it, it was instituted by Jesus, and we are instructed to continue the practice.  As in other observances, such as baptism, it is a physical expression (or symbolic) of a deeply spiritual event.  Jesus Himself stated it perfectly when He said we should participate in communion as a physical act of REMEMBRANCE.

The question is: what is it that we’re supposed to be remembering?

Luke and Corinthians both answer that question when they record Jesus as saying, ‘In remembrance of Me.’  

The reason this meal is referred to as the ‘last supper’ is because it was the last meal that Jesus shared with His disciples.  He was about to die on the cross… and nothing in Heaven or Earth would ever be the same again!  It was a monumental event… at a monumental time in the history of mankind!

We have national holidays for similar reasons… days set aside to remember specific times and events in history.  For many years after World War Two, we celebrated VE Day (Victory In Europe) and VJ Day (Victory In Japan).  Those two celebrations are no longer considered to be ‘politically correct,’ and are no longer celebrated.  Yet, because it was a pinnacle turning point in the history of our nation, we still remember December 7th, the date on which Pearl Harbor was bombed.

Although VE and VJ days were considered as days of celebration and joy, because they were times of remembering victories… Pearl Harbor Day can never be remembered with joy and with a ‘celebratory’ spirit. It is a day of remembering tremendous sacrifice and great loss of life.

Now, let’s consider our original question.  What did Jesus want us to remember today when we receive communion?

Scripture tells us that the broken bread is to remind us of his broken body, and the wine to remind us of his shed blood.  This is what we’re told to remember as we receive communion… this is the purpose of communion.  But we already know that, don’t we? 

Yes, we do.  But just like the song ‘Jesus loves me,’ the message never gets old, never wears out, never loses its powerful message!

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.  And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.   Matthew 26: 26-28

And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.  And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it.  And he said unto them,  This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.    Mark 14: 22-24

And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him.  And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.    Luke 22:14-20

…The Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:  And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.  After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.  For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.    I Corinthians 11:23-26

I often hear a term used which is interpreted as ‘participating in a rite or ceremony,’ and that term is ‘celebrating’ it… as in celebrating the last supper.  Personally, I don’t think ‘celebrating’ is an appropriate word for remembering the horribly painful, brutal, bloody death of our Lord and Savior!  We can’t begin to imagine the shame, the pain, the suffering that He went through!  Hollywood attempted to show us, but that was only a weak attempt at making us understand.  We always think of Jesus and His strength, faith, steadfast courage and unshakable spirit… yet scripture describes how He agonized over what was about to happen to him!  Think about that!  Remember it!  Now where is you ‘celebration’?

As in most all things, there’s both a ‘what’ and a ‘why.’  We’ve just had a brief and painful look at most of the whats of this last supper.  The ‘why’ is no less monumental in its supreme importance to God, to His will, to His plan for mankind, and to each and every one of us… then as well as today!

Two thousand years ago, our calendars changed.  Jesus Christ changed more than just our calendars, but everything!  Before him, God had a special family of people, people He referred to as ‘His Children.’  This was the Hebrew Nation.

These Hebrew people, living in the very shadow of the temple, were not only subject to the laws of God… but also subject to Roman law.  They paid taxes to Rome, and Tithes to God in the Temple.  And their sins were never completely forgiven.  Instead they were atoned for, meaning, they were rolled forward for another year when all of these collected sins were atoned for all over again on the Day of Atonement.  A sacrifice was made, and blood was shed, to pay the price for the people’s sins.  ‘Church’  was a rather bloody place back then!

But Jesus changed all that!

Jesus came and not only taught us how to live in harmony with one another and with God, but He also preached forgiveness and love… and mercy and grace… faith and hope… and peace and joy.  He taught us how to find and to follow the pathway to the very heart of God! 

And then, He did something that bewilders and amazes us today.  He did something that all the blood of centuries of animals could never do… He paid the price for all sins ever committed before, and all sins committed afterwards.  He himself became the sacrifice, dying on the cross, as a final and complete sacrifice, which would remove sin from mankind for once and for all!  All that was required of us was to reciprocate… He’d give His life for us but He wants us to give our lives to (and for) Him!  He did this for everyone, everyone past and present…everyone who will give up (surrender) their wills unto Him.  

Oh yes, then, as even today, there are many who cannot or will not agree to this exchange… and they chose a temporary life on earth over eternal life in heaven.  And yet, He suffered and died even for them… even though they reject his unbelievably wonderful ‘deal.’  He did this for me, and He did this for you!

When we remember (like He told us to do) His broken body and the shed precious blood, we shutter in awe, our eyes flood with tears, our knees go weak and we fall to the ground in deep humility, respect, and  reverence.  We worship at His feet.  We worship because of what He has done for us.  We are to remember His great pain and suffering, which He willingly subjected Himself to, so that we might have eternal life with him!

We are involved in this equation.  We are the ‘why’ He did this!  We are the why He suffered, bled, and died on the cross.  He did it to save our filthy hides, to take the place for all of our sorry sins… Himself to die that WE might live!

Earlier we saw what was in it for Him.  But now we’ve seen what’s in it for US.  It is all together different… total polar opposites.  He got the pain, suffering, and death… but we get the joy, happiness, peace, and life eternal!  That second part takes away our tears.  That causes us to celebrate!  That joy sends us to our feet, our hands lifted in praise!  That’s what’s in it for us.

In many restaurants, especially in beach areas, you often see notification signs stating: NO SHIRT. NO SHOES. NO SERVICE.  The meaning is clear, their dining in NOT that casual!  Dress for the occasion!  Four and Five Star Restaurants will probably require a reservation!

Do we need a reservation to partake of the Lord’s Supper, to partake in communion? 

Actually, in a very real sense, we do!  The ‘reservation’ that is required is that we come to His table in sincere humility, and with an attitude of worship, understanding, and respect for what it means.  We need to reserve our hearts, minds, and spirits to come to the table in awareness and respect.  Read what Paul tells us in the book of Corinthians. 

“The Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:  And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.  After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.  For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.  Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.  But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.  For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.     I Corinthians 11:24-29

Now, as we stand before the altar, and the loaves and the wine lay before us, this year let’s be honest with ourselves and honest with God… and let’s consider carefully not only what we are remembering, but also why.  And let’s consider not only what’s in it for us, but especially, what’s in it for Him!

Isn’t it amazing, that something so separate and diverse as are worship and praise, that they come together almost as one, in an event so monumental to our very faith!  We would miss oh so much to embrace the one and ignore the other!

It’s also amazing to consider that communion ‘flips the coin’ so to speak.  We tend to think that praise brings about worship… but during communion, it’s worship which brings on praise!  

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WAY BACK WHEN…

A Big Yellow Cat

If I could go back… back to my childhood days… way back to the days when ‘a drug problem’ at school’ meant that the office was out of aspirin… I’d go back!  You’d better believe I would! Things were truly different  back then.  No, we didn’t have Covid, but we did have mumps, measles, chicken pox, and polio.  We didn’t have TV, but we did have AM radio that brought Amos and Andy, Fibber Magee and Molly, and Guy Lumbardo into our homes.  We didn’t have cell phones that rang during church… but we had telephones with long cords and a favorite place to curl up and whisper sweet nothing to that favorite someone across town.  We didn’t have TV to keep up us half the night… or the internet to rob us of valuable family time.  But we did have those amazing places called libraries that carried countless books on countless subjects that gave us countless hours of pleasure while reading.  Hardly anything was ‘right at our fingertips’ back then, which made possessing anything – mean that we had to put out some effort to possess it. This only made things much more dear to us.  And as one of the most popular songs of the day stated, ‘little things meant a lot.’

Looking back, I remember those simple pleasures, those special treats that we found while outside discovering the world around us.  You see, our world was the real world, and not some animated imaginary world on a small flat screen manupilated by our fingers.  A good example was:  About every six weeks or so, the city sent to our neighborhood a great yellow monster!

The street on which I lived was two blocks north of Battlefield Park.  It ran east and west. Connecting our street to Battlefield was Peabody Street, running north/south.  In the 40s, Peabody had yet to be paved… it was still gravel.*  Periodically, the city would send out this great yellow monster, a road grader, to smooth out the ruts and bumps of Peabody Street.  And the neighborhood kids lined the path to watch this great machine at work!   Oh what a treat that was!  The one in the photo is only a toy-model.  But it still brought a smile to my face!

I’ve always had a deep fondness for airplanes.  Perhaps that’s because our home on Evergreen lay directly below the landing approach to one of the main runways of Hawkins Field, Jackson’s original airport.  Those old Delta and Southern DC-3 lumbering directly overhead never got boaring to this young boy!

Back then, a dollar would buy far more than it does today.  In the late 40s, a fully dressed hamburger was only a quarter… and it came with condiments on BOTH buns (something you never find today) plus lettuce, pickle, tomato and onions.  A soft drink was 5c.  When I began driving, and dating… I had $5.00 set aside for my week’s spending.  I could take that $5, put gas in Dad’s car, buy the date and myself burgers and drinks, tickets to the movie, and still have money left over for snacks for myself the remainder of the week!  

In 1945, the southern city limits of Jackson was only yards south of US Hwy 80!  And I had a cousin who also lived on Evergreen, who walked south on Peabody, crossed Battlefield Park, then crossed over Hwy 80… to squirrel hunt!  Yes, I helped eat many a squirrel that was bagged just south of Hwy 80… when that area was mostly forrest and fields.

Not long ago I found an eye-opening bit of local history which underscored just how old I really am. It was an old highway map of Mississippi, dated less than 10 years before my birth. It showed that both Highway 80 (East and West) and Highway 51 (North and South) were only PAVED just a few miles outside of Jackson! Can you imagine traveling to Memphis on a gravel road? How about on a MUDDY gravel road?  

Yes, I know, times have changed.  And they keep on changing… especially in my lifetime.  But, times have also changed during my parents lifetime, and durning their parent’s lifetime!  Not long ago I saw a list of average salaries of profession people at the turn of the century (1900).  It stated that railroad engineers then made more that medical doctors!  Yes, times have changed!  It makes me wonder what it will be like when my great-grand children are adults.  I don’t think I want to know!

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NEW KID ON THE BLOCK

Tornado

Let’s consider the following scenario:  You’re walking into your first day on a new job.  It is a large place, with several hundred employees.  You know that very soon your’ll be having interaction with dozens and dozens of these strangers.  But the only two that have welcomed you, or even reached out to you thus far are your immediate supervisor, and the HR Director!  It’s like walking into a new school, in a new state, half-way thru the school year.  It can bring on a real feeling of aloneness, even when in a crowd… as if you are a ghost no one can see!  Why won’t anyone reach out to me?  It’s almost as bad as being slapped in the face!

Fast forward to the last week in our area.  The entire central portion of the US had a week of sever weather, with high winds and very heavy rains.  These storm systems also produced tornados, which inflicted heavy damage in some areas, and even causing death and injuries.  These heavy rains caused flooding accompanied by major property damage.  Weather-wise, it’s been a rough week.

Fortunately, modern weather forecasting has given us ample warning time to prepare.  

One of the early warnings issued last week was to be prepared for possible power outages.  We have an electric range, so no power would mean no cooking.  Carol gave me a list of items that we might need over a period of 2 or 3 days, and off to Kroger I went!  The place was packed.  The ‘deadline’ for when the possible tornadoes were to hit was fast approaching.  Carol called me and said to forget the groceries, stop shopping, and to find a safe place in Kroger and hunker down.  I was instruted to STAY THERE!

I’ve seen my fair share of TV news-tornado-aftermath-coverage, and I know that tornados are not kind to Kroger, Lowes, Bed bath and Beyond, or to shopping centers in general.  I was already in the check-out lane, so I checked out.

There’s an old country song that says, ‘If you can’t be with the one you love, then love the one you’re with.’   Putting a twist to that, I decided that if I was about to die, I’d much rather die with the one I loved… than die with strangers I was with! 

I made it home just as a real tornado passed overhead less than a mile away!  Needless to say, I was very grateful, thankful, and happy to be alive and safe. The whole thing was a very frightening experience. We were so relieved when it was over!

And then, once again, only yesterday, very similar storm warning were issued.  Everyone it seemed, was taking them seriously.  I had an eye appointment that morning, and was told to come in early, as they would be closing early due to the weather.   Folks that we know were told that their workplaces were closing early.  Our church cancelled all meetings, including church service, that afternoon/night.  The city was basically closing down early yesterday! 

We stayed home, stayed in, and enjoyed watching TV!

And then last night… after the weatherforcasters had said  ‘all clear’ and the danger was passed, and there was no storm damage, and all was good again and ‘right with the world,’ I began preparing for bed.  And that’s when it hit me… my reason for writing this personal confession, and my reason for wanting to share it with you.  

Last night it suddenly hit me.  In all the ‘action’ involved with that earlier storm only days before, when that danger had passed, I was thankful, I was greatful, and I turned by heart toward Heaven in sincere appreciation to God for allowing us to be spared from harm.  I was aware of His loving hands around me!  But this time, last night for some reason, I had come complacent… I had lacked that same awareness of His loving providence!  It was as if I had ignored His loving, caring, intervention into our lives. I was shaken… not as much by what I had done, but by what I had not done!

That’s when He showed me the lesson in all this… in His wonderful, loving, way! 

Earlier that night, when the storm had left our area, and all was once again right with the world, I had simply gone on with my life, without pausing to recognize HIM and His presence in this situation.  It was as if I had treated HIM as the new kid on the block… the new one  at school… the new employee simply ignored. 

Like I said before, it was almost as if I’d slapped My Lord in the face!  That’s how I felt.

Wow!  To think that I could have done that!  

Now I had two things to thank Him for.  One: for His mercy in protecting us (and others) from the storm outside… and Two: for His amazing grace in revealing to me what I could be inside, and yet still loving me enough to expose that to me!

THANKS LORD!  Thank you for still loving me!