John 6:51 & 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
November 22, 2017
Some of us have just eaten so much we don’t even want to think again about eating. But these scriptures are talking about a different kind of eating and a very different kind of food.
At Thanksgiving we count our blessings. Many of our blessings are so wonderful and undeniable that it doesn’t take faith to feel grateful for them. Atheists and agnostics can appreciate a sumptuous meal, warm fellowship with friends and family, hard-hitting football watched from a soft couch, or steals of deals snatched on a Black Friday shopping spree.
Those of us with a biblical faith, however, see and savor a blessing behind all other blessings: a blessing that is a far deeper, more substantial, enduring, and awe-inspiring grace. We see and savor a Person who is above and beyond the bounty of blessings that meets the eye but who, while surpassing all of them, is the source of all of them. We see and savor a Savior who keeps reaching out in love to strike up a friendship with us by every possible means, even by means of a tiny bite of bread dipped in grape juice.
The Sacrament of Communion communicates to our minds, and conveys into our hearts, the most significant and powerful blessings of the past, present and future.
With respect to the past, this Sacrament reminds us, as we break the bread, how Christ’s body was once broken for us and, as we pour out the red juice, how His blood was once shed for us. It causes us to recollect how that horrible physical death plunged Him into an even more horrible spiritual death by which He paid the debt we’d incurred and made it possible for us to escape the death spiral in which we were trapped.
With respect to the present, this Sacrament brings us into the here-and-now presence of Christ as “the living bread that came down from heaven”, of which He invites to eat our fill. It confronts us with our need to decide whether we’ll dare to believe that He’s there in reality and would, if we let Him, enter into our lives so deeply and intimately that it could be truly said that He lives in us and we in Him.
With respect to the future, this Sacrament encourages us to hope that Jesus will come again and that this blessed feast is but a foretaste of a still greater feast ahead. Moreover, from the strengthening this Sacrament imparts, we develop the steadiness of mind and the sturdiness of heart to bank on the promise of Christ’s coming return and of our coming resurrection.
We have many reasons to be grateful; but this bounty of blessings from Christ in the past, the present and the future is the ultimate reason to be grateful – and gives us reason enough to be grateful even when gratitude would seem impossible.
Devon had slept around and shared some needles, and Devon was dying from AIDS.
When he first received that diagnosis, he fell apart. Out of desperation he gave Jesus a second look and opened his life to Him. He found Jesus to be more than he’d hoped for: the faithful and generous Friend he’d never had, and an endless source of comfort, strength, significance and joy.
Even when it had become obvious that physical healing wasn’t going to happen for Devon before he died, Devon couldn’t get enough of Jesus. He devoured Jesus, the Bread of life; he feasted on His love and experienced peace from His companionship, even as his body failed and the coldness of death crept into his bones.
One day, Devon called Don his pastor and, with a weak, faltering voice, asked Don if he’d come over to give him home Communion. When Don arrived, he was shocked at how frail and thin Devon had become. But Devon managed a smile and mouthed, “Thank you.”
After eating the bread dipped in juice, Devon rallied for a second, and with gleaming eyes said, “Though I couldn’t taste a thing, that was the best meal I’ve ever had. Though I’m still dying, I feel stuffed with life.”
The sacrifice that Communion commemorates brings a bounty of life and grace. Let us also dig into that feast as Devon did.