Monday, August 18, 2014

Communion This Morning, Church Conference Tonight

(A sermon based on Romans 12:1-21 preached on Sunday, August 18, 2014)

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.”

And so I thought life was all about getting what I needed with little to no effort being expended by me. A roof was kept over my head, food appeared on my plate, and clothes were placed in my closet.

“When I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.”

It’s not like I had much choice.

I found that if I was to keep on having a roof over my head, food on my plate, and clothes in my closet, I was going to have to do what adults do: become a grown human being who met my obligations and met my responsibilities.

And so with the blessings of family come the responsibilities of family. With the family dinners come the cooking and the cleaning. With making love comes making the bed. With the ball games and the competitions come all of the practices. With the house comes the mortgage. With the fun comes the commitment.

This morning we are celebrating the Lord’s Supper; we also refer to it as Communion. We call it Communion because (1) it symbolizes and celebrates our communion with God in Christ and God’s communion with us and (2) it demonstrates our communion with each other. We share in the Body of Christ as the Body of Christ.

In eating the bread and drinking the cup, then, we remind ourselves that we feed on Christ and we feed on each other. We gain nourishment and strength and life from Christ our Lord; Jesus said, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day …” (John 6:53-54). We also gain nourishment and strength from our sisters and brothers in Christ. Romans 12 is filled with encouragement that we love one another and that we demonstrate that love by thinking more highly of others than we do of ourselves, by helping each other when we are in need, and by living peaceably with each other.

So we celebrate our fellowship with God and with each other as we take the Lord’s Supper as the Body of Christ this morning.

We will be just as much the Body of Christ and we will be just as much in fellowship with God and with each other tonight in Church Conference as we are in sharing the Lord’s Supper this morning.

It’s all the same thing, you see, because we are always the Body of Christ and we are always in communion with God and with each other. We are always feeding from Christ and we are always feeding from each other.

We always have growing to do, though, so sometimes our feeding becomes corrupted. Our feeding from Christ becomes corrupted when we do so selfishly or with a sense of entitlement or without accepting the obligations that come with being his Body. There is a well-known passage in 1 Corinthians 11; Paul is giving instructions regarding the Lord’s Supper when he says, “Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves” (vv. 28-29a). When you look around the passage to find out what Paul is talking about, you find these words: “So then, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If you are hungry, eat at home, so that when you come together, it will not be for your condemnation” (vv. 33-34a). In other words, legitimate Communion with the Lord requires legitimate communion with each other.

Just like our feeding on Christ can get corrupted by our self-centeredness and lack of love and compassion, so can our feeding on each other as Paul put so well in Galatians 5: “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another” (vv. 13-15).

Yes, we mess it up sometimes.

It is as Bill Moyers once said: “Small wonder Baptists have been compared to jalapeno peppers: one or two makes for a tasty dish, but a whole bunch of them together in one place brings tears to your eyes.”

But it is also as the Quaker theologian Elton Trueblood once said: “Simple people can be amazingly powerful when they are members one of another. As everyone knows, it is almost impossible to create a fire with one log, even if it is a sound one, while several poor logs may make an excellent fire if they stay together as they burn.”

Let’s remember that we are the Body of Christ in both meetings. Let’s remember that we are feeding on Christ and on each other at both times—and indeed, at all times. Let’s let our feeding on Christ and on each other be motivated and exhibited in our love for each other. Let’s be more interested in giving that we are in receiving—even as we are so very grateful for what we receive.

It’s Communion this morning and Conference tonight—but all the time Christ is Lord and all the time we are the Body of Christ, growing in his love, grace, and peace …

And as we celebrate our privilege this morning, let’s meet our responsibility tonight …

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