Waynedale United Methodist Church
Monday, March 30, 2020
Making Disciples of Jesus for the Transformation of the World!

Jan 3, 2016 Sermon

"Celebrating Christ in Communion"
Matthew 26:17 - 30
Ted Jansen  January 3, 2016 Waynedale UMC
1.)        "Jesus took bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat: this is my body." (Matthew 26:26) 
Matthew records those words and actions in the upper room about the first time Christian Communion was celebrated.  The teaching, significance and practice since that night has meant different things to different people in different traditions. 
Some Christians have read those words and identified four different actions that Jesus did.  Those four are:  Jesus took the bread, Jesus gave thanks for the bread, Jesus broke the bread, and Jesus gave the bread to his disciples.
            Those four actions that Jesus demonstrated with the bread are almost identical with what he did with the wine. 
2.)        "Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."  (Matthew 26:27, 28)
Jesus took the cup, then Jesus gave thanks for the cup, then Jesus gave the cup to his disciples.  At some point we infer that Jesus or someone poured the wine into the cup.   
Celebrating Communion can mean that we remember those four actions.
3.)        The first action reminds us that bread and wine come from the earth.  The bread and wine are elements common to the earth and nothing of special significance in and of themselves.  Jesus took the common; he took what was provided.  The bread and juice that we have are common items that someone purchased at a store and have put them out for us to use this morning.  
            The second action reminds us that Jesus gave thanks in prayer.  He was thankful for the bread, for the wine, and for the presence of God.  We come to Communion with a heart of thanksgiving for the many gifts we have been given.  The gifts of the bread and juice, the gift of God's Salvation in Jesus Christ, the gift of God's deliverance to his people through the Passover, the gift that the Lord is still at work in our lives and in our world.  We offer our prayers of thanks to the Lord. 
We come with a heart that focuses on the love God has for us and we also come with a heart that desires to turn away from our life of sinfulness and selfishness.  We come desiring a new beginning. 
            The third action is to break the bread, or to pour the wine.  This reminds us that the gift of the bread and wine are given to all people as individuals.  We eat and drink after the bread and wine are divided up.  Once the bread is broken and the wine poured it is time to come to eat and drink.  We also consider the fact that Jesus’ body was broken by the whipping on his back, the punching, spitting and jeering.  We realize that his own blood was coming out of his body and was on the cross and ground. 
            The fourth action is serving the disciples.  Jesus gave them this meal in a personal method so they would get the connection.  We are served not by people we are served by Jesus Christ.  We desire to follow Jesus and the path He has for each of us.     
4.)        As we prepare to celebrate Communion consider the different understandings, traditions, practices, and interpretations as it relates to Communion.     
            Some churches celebrate first communion for children or youth who they feel are ready to understand and appreciate it.  Some churches celebrate open communion, which means that all are welcome to receive regardless of age or affiliation.  Some churches choose not to offer communion to anyone. 
            Some churches only allow members to be served; some allow anyone who expresses a repentant heart to be served.
            Some churches believe only certain persons can serve the bread and wine; some believe that anyone can help serve Communion.
            Some churches use wine and others only use juice, some use wafers, others different types of baked bread, some use matzo. 
            Some churches say that the people must prepare for communion by fasting and reflection.  Some churches say you shouldn’t take communion if you are not right with another person; you have a strained or estranged relationship.      
Some churches say that the bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Christ.  Some say the bread and wine are symbols of the body and blood of Christ. 
Some churches say the most important part is the receiving, some say the words of thanksgiving, some say the breaking and pouring, and some say the serving. 
Some churches say that a person must consume all the consecrated bread and wine, some say you must bury the bread and pour the wine in the ground because that is where it came from.  Some say anyone can eat and drink what is leftover.   
            Sometimes you are invited you to come forward, stay in your seat, come to a table, or kneel at an altar rail. 
            There are lots of differences and they all have certain theology and practice that are grounded in one of the four major thoughts from Church History. 
5.)        In the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology there are four major emphases with individuals that are identified as teaching an emphasis that was accepted at the time. 
a.)        Radbertus, who lived in the ninth century, emphasized that the bread and wine actually became the real body and blood of Christ.  This was an early understanding. 
b.)        Luther, who came along in the later part of the 15th century and the early part of the 16th century, rejected the belief of Radbertus but said that the words that were spoken were the most important part of Communion.  The emphasis was on the liturgy. 
c.)        Zwingli, who also lived in the 16th century, emphasized the importance of your own spirit and soul remembering Jesus Christ.  The words of the liturgy and the bread and wine were secondary to your personal piety in Communion. 
d.)        Calvin was also involved in teaching in the later part of the 16th century.  He had a view that seemed to combine parts of each of these men and their thinking.  He believed that in the eating of the bread and drinking the wine a spiritual transformation took place and not a physical one.  He believed that words of the liturgy and your remembrance were important but not primary.  Calvin emphasized a sense of mystery about Communion.  He believed that regardless of our understanding we could still receive from God what God desired us to have. 
            Calvin wrote, "If anyone should ask me how this (partaking of the whole Christ) takes place, I shall not be ashamed to confess that it is a secret too lofty for either my mind to comprehend or my words to declare…I rather experience than understand it."  (Institutes 4.17.32)
            Calvin believed in the importance of experiencing Christ in Communion.  He did not believe that you had to have it figured out in regards to theology of Communion. 
 6.)       The United Methodist Church embraces its understanding of Communion through John Wesley.  John Wesley was living in the 18th century when the ideas of Calvin had been around for about two hundred years.  John was a brilliant scholar but experienced grace in his heart as well as through his mind.  Because of his own experience of the grace of God that changed his heart at his conversion; his heart was “strangely warmed,” John leaned towards a view that Calvin held. 
John Wesley believed that your experience of grace was the first step.  From God's grace in your life you would be led to the right response of faith.  That grace goes before you even before you understood or receive it.    
We believe the most important thing in Communion is to experience it, to receive it, and then let God's grace teach, touch and transform us. 
            We can know that we are forgiven, that we have new life, that we have peace, that we are in fellowship with other believers, that we have courage.  Grace is a gift.
7.)        In the Wesleyan tradition we do not believe that the bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Christ, they are symbols.  
            That is why today we ask the Holy Spirit to use the bread, the juice, the words, and the condition of our heart so that we might experience the grace of God.  We are made in the image of God, yet have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.  We have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for my sin.  By the resurrection of Christ and God’s love and power we can be made right with God.  
8.)        We come today as people needing the Grace of God.  We come as a people who need forgiveness for our sins, who need love in our hearts, who need healing for our bodies, who need a new beginning, who need God's presence in our lives.  We expect that in these moments Christ will be made real through the receiving of Communion. 
Communion Prayer (Based on the four actions)
*Lord, God the Creator of all things we receive today this bread that has been baked from the grain of the field, this juice which been pressed from grapes.  It has been given today from the earth and by the hands of those who have prepared it for our use. 
          *We thank you, Lord of the Universe, for Creation and the harvest it provides for our physical nourishment. 
          We thank you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit for bringing spiritual nourishment to our souls.  We offer our humble appreciation to you, our Heavenly Father for sending your only Son into the world to be a gift of love for many.  May our hearts be open to His love today. 
          We hear again Matthews’s words and we remember the Upper Room. "Jesus took bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat: this is my body.  Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." 
          We open our hearts anew to this gift of salvation, the gift of forgiveness, the gift of new life in God's grace.  
          *The bread of life is broken for you and for me.  The cup of salvation has been poured out anew for your forgiveness.  There is enough for everyone here to receive all that the Lord has to offer you. 
          *Come and eat this meal as an expression of the goodness of God.  Come all of you, women and men, old and young, married and single, wealthy and poor, sinners and saints.  Come with a heart that desires to turn away from sinful and selfish ways and receive a new life in Christ.  Come all that want to experience Christ in Communion.