Let us pray:
Creator of us all, we believe in you with all our hearts. We trust in your infinite goodness and mercy. Thank you for so patiently guiding us along the pathway to everlasting life. We love you and offer you all that we have and all that we do, for your glory and the salvation of souls. Lord, give us faith to believe that you are the Bread of Life. Amen.
We have heard in the Gospel readings for the last three weeks (we have one more week) that Jesus reminds us:
I am the bread of life. (John 6:48)
This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. (John 6:50)
The series of John’s Gospel on the Eucharist remind us that God sent Jesus to teach us how to live, and to know that we have eternal life. We are directed to commemorate His life, crucifixion and resurrection in the celebration of the Eucharist.
The Episcopal Church regards the Eucharist as a memorial of Christ’s life and death and passion until He comes again. We believe scripture says that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was a ‘once-and-for-all’ event and Eucharist is the remembrance of His suffering and sacrifice. The bread and wine represent Christ’s Body and Blood. The miracle of the Eucharist is not in the inanimate objects of the bread and wine themselves, but in coming to the Lord’s Table in faith and humility, and sharing in that spiritual meal where we all seek to meet with God in a special way
Among many Protestant religions, what we call ‘Eucharist’ is normally referred to as ‘Communion’. Communion literally means “sharing.” It is the breaking of bread together. The word “communion” comes from King James Bible translation of the Greek word for “sharing” which Paul used in describing the taking of bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ. The Latin root is com-mun’-is, participation by all. The same root is used for the words common and community; the bringing of everyone together as one body. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:17, when speaking of sharing bread as the body of Christ,
“Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.“
“One bread, one body” – a belief that has fractured many communities of faith since time began. Some day we can pray that all Christians can come to the Lord’s Table as a community – share with everyone the “one bread, one body”.
I have to tell you an ‘interesting’ story. When Karen was younger, she attended another denomination in Jonesboro, Arkansas. They initially celebrated communion once a month and then once a quarter. Increasingly the rite of communion became a sort of ‘bother’ to the minister, interrupting ‘his’ service and seemingly devoid of meaning. So, the decision was made to move communion into the chapel, where there were the elements, and a piece of paper with the liturgy on it. If you wanted communion, you could go into the chapel and ‘celebrate’ communion by yourself! Somehow, they were missing the concept of communal meal – and Karen didn’t realize how far off-the-mark her childhood church had strayed until she became an Episcopalian!
“Self-Serve Communion” is like having a party only for yourself.
Crucial to the celebration of the Eucharist/Communion is the sharing of Jesus’ meal with the ‘community’ – with the body of Christ. We are all welcome to come to God’s table to memorialize Jesus and his sacrifice for us to have eternal life. Saint Paul called this feast ‘The Last Supper’ – maybe we should call it ‘The Lasting Supper’ because Jesus’ sacrifice was for our eternal life and lasts for eternity.
When we come to the table, let us remember we are all children of God and we will be sharing in the feast of The Last Supper with, not only members of Saint John’s, but Episcopalians and Christians around the world.
Let us remember, that when we receive the wafer with our fellow Christians we are receiving ‘what we are – the body of Christ’.
Let us pray:
Lord, give us always this Bread of Life. Open our hearts and our souls to long for this new life that only you can bring us through the Eucharist. Give us the humility and simplicity to listen to you and to believe that you have the words of eternal life. Amen.
Delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 19 Aug 2018