Updated: Jul 7, 2022
Holy Spirit Encoded Memory
Communion or the Lord’s Supper holds numerous meanings for various forms of Christianity as well as individual believers. For the most part, each Christian denomination has Biblical backing for their understandings of communion. Again, for the most part, most believers do also. So, what I offer you on Sunday in the message will be the humble offering to approaching Communion of the Methodist tradition, seasoned with my own understanding of what happens when Jesus tells us, “Take and eat, this is my body broken for you.” And, “Take and drink, this is my blood shed for you and many for the forgiveness of sins.”
In the Methodist tradition, Communion is one of two Sacraments. The word sacrament is the Latin translation of the Greek word “mysterion”. From the early days of the church, baptism and the communion were associated with the mystery that surrounds God’s action in our lives. That means that at best our words can only circumscribe or explain in part what happens, but not define it. We cannot rationally explain why God would love us “while we were yet sinners” and give his only begotten Son that we should not perish but have eternal life. That is the most sacred and unfathomable mystery of all. We can experience God’s grace at any time and in any place, but in the sacraments of baptism and communion we routinely experience that amazing grace.
Communion is a sacrament because when we receive it, in the Methodist tradition, we experience the presence of Christ. Each time this meal is served the presence of Christ’s spirit is evident. This view is also in line with the Jewish understanding of “remembrance.” Jesus is eating the Passover meal with his friends and disciples in the upper room. The Passover meal is a “remembrance” of God’s mighty acts in the Exodus – God leading the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt to freedom. Later Jewish rabbis would say that as each new generation eats the Passover meal, “In every generation a man [and woman] must so regard themselves as if they came forth themselves out of Egypt.”
As the disciples and friends eat that Passover meal with Jesus, it is as if they are with that generation of God’s people who witnessed firsthand God saving them from slavery and death and leading them through the Red Sea on dry ground. Then Jesus gives that meal an expanded meaning – it is now his meal. Again, as you and I take the bread and the wine, it is as if we are there with Jesus experiencing the presence of his life and death and resurrection leading us from slavery to freedom.
We can talk a great deal about the meaning of Communion – a noble conversation. This Sunday, though, I deeply desire for you and me to experience Communion – to have the past mighty acts of God-in-Jesus brought powerfully into our present lives. To experience what JD Walt writes, “The Bible is the authoritative Holy Spirit encoded memory of Divine mystery. The ambition of Holy Scripture [the Bible] is to unfold memory in a way that brings us inside the mystery.”
Here is how I suggest you get ready for Sunday:
-- Read Exodus 12:1-39. Read as if you were there, getting ready to leave the Exile of slavery for the Exodus to freedom. Powerless yet in the hands of the One true God who is FOR YOU.
-- Then read Matthew 26:26-30 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. Again, as if you are right there with Jesus as he leads all humanity, who are in Exile from God because of our sins, on a new Exodus to freedom from sin and eternal death.
-- Pray, “Jesus, let me meet you in some very real way in the bread and juice this Sunday. Transform me to be more like you in the experience.”
-- Know this is not magic or sentimentalism. This is using a means Jesus has given us to connect with him in a real and deep way. (Known as a “means of grace;” a way given by God in the Bible to experience God’s undeserved love, forgiveness and power)
See you Sunday,
Thanks for photo by Nico Smit on Unsplash
See you Sunday!