I spent the week doing many things, not least of which was preparing a sermon on Communion in my sermon series on “Why We Worship.”
As many of you know evangelical churches seem to be falling back in love with the sacrament after about 70 years of forgetting about it. I managed to get in early on this trend because I was lucky enough to attend a youth group in high school where my youth pastor celebrated the Eucharist every week. In fact, I would have liked to preach 6-8 sermons just about Communion but my preaching calendar prevented me.
So I have to try to scratch the surface in one sermon. But what do you say in one sermon that summarizes the 2,000 year tradition of eating bread and drinking wine together? This has been my question and my problem. I started with John 6 where Jesus says, “unless you eat my body and drink my blood you have no part in me and I have no part in you.” This verse leads to the wonderful sentiment expressed by many lately that when we partake of the Eucharist we don’t just recall Jesus’ death but we are “re-membered” into Christ’s body, meaning we become members of Jesus’ body again.
One of the central acts of the Eucharist is the breaking of bread to remind us that the body we are membered into is a broken one. I absolutely love how vague Paul is when he recounts the Last Supper in 1 Corinthians 11. Paul says that Jesus took the bread, broke it and said, “do this in remembrance of me.” Does “do this” mean “eat this.” Or does it refer to “break” so that Paul meant, “Break in remembrance of me?”
If it is “break in remembrance,” then maybe when we eat the broken body we become a broken body. The Eucharist does not stop there. We go one step further and drink spilled blood. The blood and water that poured out of Jesus’ side are contained for us in the Eucharist goblet of wine. This reminds us that the solution to the world’s suffering might not be in taking the blood of others but by shedding our own.
And in a world saturated with conflict, especially over the last few months in places like Ukraine, Gaza, Iraq and now Ferguson, MO, it might be important for the church to be re-membered into Christ’s broken body. Many in our culture currently seek to label the good guys and the bad guys in any given conflict, then encourage us to exercise violence accordingly. When we listen to them, we find ourselves looking for the good lions who will rush onto the scene and destroy all the bad guys in paw’s reach. We cry out, “Who will break their bones and take their blood?” In our prayers we ask God to send down those lions. And we are not surprised when many hurt and broken people volunteer, excited they finally get to execute “swift justice.” Then we are surprised when the media puts them under a fine microscope and shows us they are no conquering heroes, but very flawed individuals whose pursuit of “swift justice” destroyed what they were trying to protect.
In such a world, in such a time, the Eucharist reminds us that to save the world, God didn’t come as a lion but as a lambe. God’s body was broken and the blood shed and that begins the process of making things right.
When I finger those small pieces of unleavened wafer in my hands on Sunday mornings, I find myself asking the question a popular worship songs asks, “Who could have thought a lamb could rescue the souls of men?” Who would have thought that a broken body and shed blood saves the world? Then when I eat and drink, I become re-membered into that body, a broken body that refuses to break other’s bodies (even the most vile) and all in the hope of resurrection to come.