Today is a mix of many days. It is a day to remember those who died at Beaumont Hammel and other places in Europe. It is also a day to celebrate this country that we call home and it is communion Sunday. Communion is one of the two sacraments of the church baptism being the other. Every month we gather around the table and celebrate this feast of God’s abundance but we seldom pause to reflect on its meaning in our lives and its place in our community.
Over the years I’ve experienced communion in many ways. In the pews, in circles serving one another, by intinction, with small cubes of bread, full loaves of bread, with honey and bread, with grape juice, with wine and much to my surprise on time with the fizzing bubbles of grape pop. But no matter how it is served or what elements are used at the heart of the feast is the notion that we are taking part in something holy. I’ve often wondered how people who’ve never come to church see what we do. Think about it, “I went to this church and they had bread that they called the body of Jesus and grape juice that they called blood.” It is indeed a strange thing we Christians do and yet it is central to our lives of faith.
Communion helps to remember God’s grace. It is a sacrament which means it is a visible sign of an invisible grace. We do something like share in the meal of bread and wine and it is a reminder of God’s grace. Grace is sometimes harder to understand. The Dictionary defines grace as, “Seemingly effortless beauty or charm of movement, form, or proportion; a characteristic or quality pleasing for its charm or refinement; a disposition to be generous or helpful; goodwill; mercy; clemency.” In more theological language we would say that grace is the free gift of God – we do nothing to earn it. Grace comes at the most unexpected times. Jan Arden tweeted this,
“Mercy came to me today-
She whispered softly in my ear-
She swept the hair out from my eyes,
And left forgiveness at my feet.” (@Jannarden 2013-06-18)
As we gather at the table we are reminded of God’s infinite grace to us in Jesus Christ. It is the promise of sins forgiven but more than that it is the reminder that we are enough just as we are. The Chalice we are using for communion today is called “the Bent Chalice.” It is bent because it is a reminder that all of us come to the Lord’s Table bent and broken in need of grace. The Potter describes it this way, “The bent chalice is a visual reminder that all people of faith can come the Welcoming Table just as they are bringing whatever broken pieces of life, whatever isn’t perfect, and whatever doesn’t measure up ... and know that we are created in the image of The Holy.” (Dancing Fiddler Potter)
Each of us comes the Lord’s Table in our own way recognizing that through some mystery we can’t quite name we meet God. Somehow over time we’ve lost sight of that fact that all are welcome as we come to commune with God, we humans put up fences around God’s table to protect this sacred meal from abuses. Those fences are both tangible ones and intangible ones. Like you have to be good enough, faithful enough, understand enough, attend church enough in order to be worthy of coming to the table. One of the ways this was communicated was through the distribution of communion tokens. I’m not sure it if was in use here, but one responsibilities years ago of session members to distribute tokens to the people who were allowed to have communion. In order to receive communion you needed to present the token to the person serving communion. A remnant of this existed in my childhood church where communion cards were distributed monthly to all eligible for communion.
You can be assured that when Jesus gathered around the table with his disciples at the first communion no one needed a communion card or to be holy enough, or good enough or perfect enough to come. It was not a question of being worthy. The first communion was more like Sunday Dinner or a family celebration. It was the Passover meal. So men, women and children were all have gathered at the table. It was not at all like the pictures of angelic disciples at the table we’ve seen this morning. Passover was a family meal and one of the most important groups at the table was the children because they asked all the questions that helped people remember God’s goodness.
Jesus sat in amongst the children, men and women and started a new way to remember God’s goodness. Jesus took bread and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:24) Then he took a cup and said, “This is the cup of the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:25) Matthew says after the meal was over they sang a hymn and went to the Mount of Olives.
After his resurrection, Jesus’ disciples recognized him in the breaking of the bread. Once after a journey to Emmaus and once on a beach in a simple meal of broiled fish and bread. Communion is a feast, a celebration of the good news, a reminder of God’s love and most importantly a time to remember God’s deep and abiding grace. Perhaps one of the most beautiful responses to communion came from one of our children who after tasting the bread and wine said, “This is the best snack ever, can I have some more?”
He was so right. Communion is the best snack ever because it nourishes both body and soul, and with God there is always more … more grace, more mercy, more love. So come to the table just as you are to be filled with God’s goodness. Enjoy the best snack ever so that when you leave this holy place you can share the good news of God’s grace with others. Amen.