A Quick Note Before I begin:
I have had multiple requests since I started posting my youtube sermons to also distribute text sermons, as well. As my preaching style is completely extemporaneous, I’ve decided to create a parallel sermon series where I look at another reading from the lectionary each week that compliments the sermon but is not necessarily on the exact subject. I hope you enjoy!
This week is Communion Sunday. Instead of gathering together in church, breaking the bread and drinking from the cup, we are huddled at home with our Bibles, our internet sermons, and our zoom communions.
It seems unreal. Is the bread even sacred if you picked it up yourself and your local grocery store? What’s the point of juice/wine if we just put it back in the fridge after we pour a small cup for ourself, only to drink it later as part of a meal or just because we’re thirsty? Do we even bother if we’re alone? Protestant sympathizers have battled with the ideas, believe it or not, since before Luther nailed his theses to a church door.
However, whatever Communion has become to different walks of faith, it really began with tradition. The followers of Christ had lost something, mainly Jesus. They couldn’t get him back. After his forty days on earth after his Resurrection, he ascended into heaven. All they had left were his teachings and his memories–and so they held on and held on and refused to let go.
In v. 42 we see that the followers of Christ are doing four things regularly:
1) apostles’ teachings — the apostles are the chosen of Jesus to go out into the world and spread his message. The apostles, furthermore, are real and present and a tangible link to Christ.
2) fellowship — the followers of Christ are together not only in physical space but in mind and belief. This is the creation of the early Church. When Christians 2,000 years later talk about other believers across the globe, we speak about being in fellowship with them. Another way of saying it is that we are in communion with them.
3) breaking of the bread — communion. Here is where ritual comes in. Just as Jesus broke the bread the night before he died, so his followers do as well. It is a physical form of fellowship.
4) prayer — where the apostles’ teachings are a tangible link to Christ, prayer is an intangible one. One cannot see prayer. However, prayer allows you to feel directly connected to your Lord and Savior.
As our short Bible lesson continues, we get a look into the early lives of Christian. There is joy, there is avowed poverty, there is fellowship and always, always they are breaking bread together. It is final element of their life which makes them, indeed, Christians, that separates them out from other religious sects. It’s the ritual of sharing in the bread and wine that defines who they are. When they eat the bread, they know that they are with Jesus before his death, spiritually and not physically, and in fellowship with not only him and the Twelve, but with each other and all the Christians who will follow after them. When they drink the cup, they acknowledge their belief that Jesus will once again come.
This Communion Sunday, it is so easy to think of ourselves as alone and separated and forgotten. We are isolated in our homes, cut off from friends and families, and unable to congregate with our fellow believers.
But remember that there are others who came before, other Christians, who felt the same way. Think of the early Christians who could be arrested for their faith, who hid in the attics of their homes, knowing they could be put to death. Think of the martyrs who died for their faith in a time when Christianity was universally despised by the Roman Empire and other non-Christian governments. Think of both Catholics and Protestants who during the reigns of Tudor kings and queens could be burnt in the stake by friends-turned-enemies. Think of the Pilgrims and other Protestant believers who fled from their homeland, over the treacherous seas, only to find what appeared to be a hostile wasteland in the Americas. Think of Christians, not only in the American South but all over the world, who have watched their churches be burned to the ground or had people come in during worship to gun down people while they prayed.
Did they not also feel alone? Did they not also feel like there was no one they could turn to? Did they not also look at the bread and the cup and wonder what’s the point, if it’s just a ritual that means nothing if there was no one there to share in them?
Wherever Two or Three Are Gathered
Jesus, during his life, said: “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I am among them” (Matthew 18:20).
This does not just mean in a physical sense. It means spiritually, as well. As long as two or three are in fellowship, in communion, through common thoughts, beliefs, and perhaps telephone or internet presence–Jesus is there. The tradition continues. The line continues one far into the past and far-reaching into the future.
This Sunday, you are not alone. There are millions of Christians staying in their homes, taking walks (if it’s not raining), communing with others over the internet or phone. The ritual is important, of course, it reminds us who where we are, where we came from. But it’s the true communion that matters.
Do not shut yourself off from the grace this Sunday or any day that follows. Christ is with you are are the millions upon millions of Christians around the planet.