(Philippians 2:1-13) J G White
Sunday, Oct 1, 2017, UBC Digby
On this ‘World Communion Sunday,’ let us contemplate the broad meaning of this Christian worship activity we observe here once a month. It is a way of telling and enacting the story of Jesus, and those words from Philippians 2 can help us draw nearer to the meaning and power of Holy Communion.
It is significant to realize that we have a fellowship connection with millions of believers around the globe. And though there are many different ways this ceremony is done, and lots of differing opinions on what it means, we share it. It is a holy Communion.
5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus… Wrote Paul. We can share the attitude and way of Jesus. We share Christ with all the others who share Him.
Our word, ‘communion,’ of course means ‘fellowship.’ We have the words ‘communion,’ ‘community,’ ‘commune,’ and even ‘communist.’ All about the same thing. Togetherness. We are known to sing Fanny Crosby’s hymn, ‘Draw Me Nearer.’
O, the pure delight of a single hour
that before Thy throne I spend,
when I kneel in prayer, and with thee, my God,
I commune as friend with friend. (1875, # 534)
So it means something to take this bit of bread and juice from the grapes with others. To do it alone seems weak to me. I never like to go alone and take communion to someone in their home. I want at least a few: fellowship.
The other term we Baptists tend to use for it is The Lord’s Supper, a phrase from 1 Corinthians 11. It is a symbolic meal, with physical bread and physical grapejuice. We remember the Lord Jesus was a physical being in history. Paul speaks of the Saviour,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited…
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
Born like you and me. Breathed like you and me. Ate and drank and grew like you and me. Walked and saw and heard and touched like you and me. And knew all the capabilities and limitations of the mind and heart like you and me. Jesus felt pain, felt sadness, felt joy, felt hope. The Lord’s Supper gets is in touch with the God who enters human life completely.
There are other terms for this ritual. Some Christians simply refer to it as the Breaking of Bread. Jesus, the Bread for the world, was broken.
And being found in human form,
8 he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
In the context of this Table, breaking of the bread is significant. Bread must be broken up in order for it to be shared by many. Somehow, it worked that Jesus was broken and killed, to be shared by many.
There are times this act of worship gets us in touch with our own mortality. With the deaths and griefs we have suffered. With our own brokenness. And may we see, from deep within, that God breaks too, joining us, so there will be healing and new life.
Eucharist is not a word Baptist Christians have used much, but it is common among Catholics, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Eastern Orthodox, and others. The word comes from the Greek, εὐχαριστία, meaning, ‘thanksgiving.’ Not the holiday, Thanksgiving, but simply giving thanks. Showing the attitude of gratitude. We find the element of thankful rejoicing in this hymn to Christ that Paul gives us:
9 Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth…
When we come together at the Lord’s Table once a month, it can be a real moment of thankfulness! Each of us grateful for how God reaches into our lives with love and mercy, truth and healing. And thankful for being made one by the One we know and share, Christ Jesus.
In many Christian traditions some of the praying at the eucharistic table is called ‘the great thanksgiving.’ We will use a bunch of prayers in our hymnbook that make up a ‘great thanksgiving.’
And finally, this Christian rite is called Mass by Roman Catholics, some Anglicans, and others. A few of us protestants went to Mass at St. Pat’s the other evening, when Mass was said for the late Maureen Potter.
It is hard to know where this simple little word comes from. Is ‘Mass’ from the Jewish ‘Matzah,’ the unleavened bread of the Passover? Or is the term rooted in a word for dismissing and blessing people as they go? Or, perhaps, Mass is from a word for mission. I like the idea of connecting this time of bread and wine with being sent out to accomplish our purpose.
Paul’s hymn to Christ ends:
11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
If coming to the Lord’s Table together helps us connect well with God, we can go out with renewed life, and life abundant to share. We get reminded of the One who goes before us into each day. We get inspired to confess our Faith with our words and actions and thoughts, moment by moment.