“The two main sacraments, baptism and the Eucharist, are the spiritual pillars of the Church.  They are not simply instruments by which the Church exercises its ministry.  They are not just means by which we become and remain members of the Church but belong to the essence of the Church.  Without these sacraments there is no Church.  The Church is the body of Christ fashioned by baptism and the Eucharist.  When people are baptised in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and when they gather around the table of Christ and receive his Body and Blood, they become the people of God, called the Church.” – Henri Nouwen

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The  church my family attends holds to sacramental tradition, though we’ve never taken Communion every Sunday.  I wish we did.  Last spring, I wrote and taught a small group course on Baptism and Communion, the Sacraments of the United Methodist Church.  The course seemed to be very well-received.  My great hope is that some folks in our small church will begin to see that there are some spiritual benefits to Holy Communion; that they might begin to desire the Body and Blood of Christ more; and that they might see it as more than a vain symbol by which we gain nor offer anything.

I want folks to see it for what it is…A sacred meal.  A holy exchange with a living God.  Spiritual refreshment.  A place to come where we as a congregation are all bound together, united, knit tightly by the Body and Blood of Christ that we partake of.

In our last lesson on Communion, I did a review of John Wesley’s treatise, The Duty of Constant Communion, in which he examined the arguments against taking Communion often, and the Biblical arguments for partaking as often as we can.   As I wander through the arguments against and for frequent use of the Communion table, note that many of the arguments are pure Wesleyan;  some I’ve gathered from other sources; and finally, the most profound ideas are straight from my own small noggin.  In the midst of all my ramblings, you’ll find some links to writings on the subject that are much more eloquent than my own.  Please, click on them, and read offerings from folks who are smarter, and from whom I often steal ideas.

Now, if you’re looking for a scholarly dissertation on the Eucharist, you ain’t gonna find it here.  Remember, this is dirt-road theology you’re dealing with.  This is a post you’re either going to love or hate, depending on where you stand on the issue of weekly Communion.  Just take my cornbread musings into consideration, and leave me some comments on where you stand on the matter after you read.

We’ll look at the topic from two perspectives…Myths about Communion vs. Myth Busters.

Myth # 1:  Christ didn’t really command that we take Communion.

It’s funny to me that we as a Christian sub-culture are so enamored with the Ten Commandments, fighting for them to posted in our public places; putting them on signs in our front yards; and considering them to be foundational documents for our nation here in the U.S.A.  We love to spout Old Testament commands when we see behaviors in people that are offensive to us.  Evangelicals fixate on commands dealing with the consumption of alcohol, modest clothing, sexual behavior, coarse language, leadership roles in the Church and the home, whether a pastor can be divorced, whether he can be divorced and remarried, and on and on.  Some even use Scripture to justify whether or not a woman should cut her hair.

Subsequently, we define who is “saved” and who isn’t by how well they follow the commands.  We preach grace, but what we practice is often another thing altogether.

Why is it we focus on some commands, though, yet ignore a very basic one Christ Himself gave us?

Mythbuster:  Sorry, y’all.  Jesus said to do it.

Scripture says this…

When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”  

After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”   (Luke 22:14-19)

Take this…divide it among you…do this in remembrance of me.

Take this.

Do this.

I don’t know, but when my mama told me to take something, or do something, I knew she meant that I better take it and freakin’ do it.

One thing I’ve noted over the years of observing my own parents, and now that I’m a parent myself, is that good parents teach through repetition.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my girls to stay away from the stove when we’re cooking, because it’s hot.  Eventually, they reach a point where they point and say, “Hot”,  and they don’t go near it.  I also can’t tell you how many times my wife and I have told our two year old that she shouldn’t attempt to change her own diaper.  That one still hasn’t shrunk in.  We are in a phase of doing excessive amounts of laundry in my home as a result.

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A few days back, I began a discussion of things that I believe bind us together as believers;  characteristics that define us as a community.  It’s a broad topic, with a lot of possibilities for subject matter, but I believe that the primary things that knit together are as follows:

1) We are a people of Baptism.

2) We are a people of Communion.

3) We are a people of Creed.

We’re continuing on in our discussion of “The Ties that Bind” today with a look at Holy Communion.  You may call it the Eucharist, Mass, or just the Table.  Regardless of the label, or whether you believe in transubstantiation or consubstantiation,  there is great power in communion when it is regarded as a sacrament.  The bread and wine, whether you subscribe to the idea that they  become the actual body and blood of Christ, that the Holy Spirit is present, or that they represent the essence of the flesh and blood of Christ, are  wonderfully divine mysteries that knit us together as believers.

It’s been said that if baptism is the starting line for our spiritual journey, then communion is the food for the journey.  It’s an intimate contact between ourselves and Jesus.  The sacramental view of the table hold that it is a means of grace,  nourishing us, so that we can better live out our faith in our daily lives.   The Spirit refreshes and restores us through communion, but it’s not only an intimate transaction between us and the Spirit.

It’s a family meal.

I Corinthians 10:17 says that “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread”.  As we perform the individual transaction of communion, we become a part of a bigger reality, The Body of Christ.  Martin Luther wrote that “The communion table is the only place where we can enjoy communion with God, and community with each other.” 

Most churches with sacramental traditions have liturgies that reflects the corporate nature of communion.  We confess our sins corporately; lift our hearts to God together; and we pray the Lord’s Prayer together (The language of the Prayer directly implies that it’s not only meant to be prayed individually, but also corporately…”Our father..give us today our daily bread…forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”).  Finally, we give thanks to Christ for the mystery of the communion table, together.

I love the show “Blue Bloods”.  My deepest prayer is that Tom Selleck might be plotting a comeback as Thomas Magnum, PI.  As a teenager, I was insanely jealous of his Ferrari, full mustache, and incomparable ability to have relatively innocent hook ups with exotic  women without even trying.  I’m pretty sure that has nothing to do with the topic, though, and likely indicates the depths of my depravity.   Magnum’s shorts were too short, by the way.  I’m just sayin’.

Anyway, back to Blue Bloods.  One of my favorite parts of the show is the inevitable scene where the family meets for Sunday night dinner.  The entire family comes together every week and enjoys a feast.  The meal is always prepared by their father, and it is never mundane.  No hot dogs or PB&J.  It’s sumptuous,  and my wife and I generally have to snack immediately after watching, to stop the salivation and fantasies about eating the meal we’ve just observed.  The people gathered at the table are different.  They have different ideologies, different philosophies and are at different stages in life.  They are different, but bound together by two things: 

1)  They are bound by blood.  They are a family.  They are different, but they have a common father, a like history.  The bond of blood is inescapable.  They may not always like each other, but the bond of blood requires that they love each other.  The table may be surrounded by people who bicker and fight and moan, but there is no doubt whatsoever that they would absolutely give their lives for one another.

2) They are bound by calling.  The Reagan family is a family of policemen and lawyers.  Their grandfather was a police officer, their father is a police officer, the sons are police officers, the daughter works in the district attorney’s officer, and even a young grand-daughter has aspirations of entering law enforcement one day.  They are unique individuals, with one common purpose, the enforcement and defense of the law.  They are passionate about what they do.

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