First Mennonite Church
October 2, 2022
Communion: A Witness of God’s Grace and Call
Text: Luke 22:14-23
There are views about the meaning and purpose of why Christians should celebrate the Lord’s Supper. I have heard pastors describe it as the spiritual thermometer for believers. They believe that by whether a believer participates or not in the Communion is evidence of his or her spiritual temperature. Those who are fervent participate and those who are spiritually cold refrain from participating.
Some Christians see their participation in the Lord’s Supper as the most important aspect of the worship service.
The Catholic Church has a doctrine called the Transubstantiation. This is the belief where the host and the wine literally transform into the flesh and blood of Jesus at the very moment the priest serve them to the parishioners.
Some other Christians would not use for communion elements product other than wafers or bread made from wheat and grapes juice. However, in the early stages of the Mennonite Church in Panama, the Imbera and Gwaunan indigenous peoples used plantain and coffee when they celebrated the Lord’s Supper. Plantain (large-like bananas) and coffee were the staple food for these indigenous groups in Panama and northern Colombia. Wheat and grapes were not known to them.
Whatever the views there are surrounding the Lord’s Supper, Christians of all traditions see in this ritual something of great spiritual significance that goes beyond the material elements used in it.
Today, we are celebrating Communion. This Christian ritual is grounded in the last meal Jesus had with his disciples on the night of his arrest and later trial and crucifixion. John tells us Jesus celebrated more than one Passover Feast (2:13; 11) We do not know if Jesus had celebrated the previous Passovers meals the way he did with his disciple as this one recorded by Luke. Luke’s recording of this account seems to highlight the uniqueness of this divinely appointed moment in Jesus’ life. Jesus expressed an eagerness for this moment to come. “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. The timing for this meal is tied to Jesus’ suffering. The expression “before I suffer” is a veiled reference to Jesus’ death, which he had announced three times before (Luke 9: 21, 44; 18:31). This last supper was going to give Jesus the opportunity to graphically tell his disciples about his death once more. It was his last opportunity he would have to explain the purpose of his life and of his death. The elements of the supper would become the material reminders to interpret the death and redeeming power of Jesus life. Never again would the disciple eat bread and drink from the produce of the vine, without being reminded of the significance of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. If the disciple had failed to understand the three previous warnings about Jesus upcoming death, the elements in the Last Supper would sure help them understand.
The wine was a perfect representation of his blood and the breaking of the bread was a visual illustration of what was going to happen to Jesus’ body. There was a deeper meaning beyond the simple and visual elements. They represented Jesus’ life-giving grace and power.
Jesus would further explain that he was not going to participate of this solemn act again, at least not in the near future. “I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” From Jesus’ perspective, the uniqueness of that moment was unrepeatable. It, however, points to the future, when God’s kingdom comes. This reminds us of the words of the Apostle Paul who wrote: For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1Corinthians 11:26). It is for this reason every time we celebrate Holy Communion, we anticipate the wedding feast between the Lamb of God and the redeemed and glorified church as mentioned in the book of Revelations. There we read:
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
8 Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.”
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)
9 Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God” (Revelations 19:7-9).
Every occasion we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we cannot avoid remembering the death of Jesus. Communion is the closest visual display of what happened on Good Friday. The blood-stained cross, the wounded side of Jesus, the crown of thorns piercing his forehead, and his bleeding hands and feet, are all present in the elements of Communion.
But is the Lord’s Supper simply a ritual of remembrance of what Jesus did? Is it only intended to play eating a meal and to build our sense of anticipation of the glorious banquet God will offer his redeemed people at the closing of time?
Let us read again:
Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (19).
Jesus breaks the bread, which he says is his body “given for you.” The broken bread is for our benefit. Jesus’ self-giving of his body is for our wellbeing, salvation, redemption. But then he adds, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
Our participation in the Communion of the Lord is also the affirmation of our willingness to serve others. By eating at the Lord’s Table, we recommit ourselves to seek the wellbeing of our fellow brothers and sisters.
Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, as we come around the Lord’s Table, we give witness that we are direct beneficiaries of Jesus’ vicarious death. He was broken so that we may have life, so that we may be restored to God. By taking the Communion elements we announce the Lord’s coming and the glorious reunion of God and his redeemed people at the closure of time. But also, by participating at the Lord’s Table, we say to one another, “Here I am, how can I serve you?”
Let us, therefore, come with joy and thanksgiving to Jesus for giving himself on our behalf. Let us participate and announce to everyone what Jesus Christ has done on our behalf. And, let us take the break and the wine, as a pledge to one another that we are here to serve one another in the name of the Lord.
The Lord invites us. Please come to the Lord’s Table. Amen!