Luke 22:14-20, Psalm 107:1-32
When I was a child, I remember the pleasure I found in a kaleidoscope that was given to me as a present. Every minor turn of the tube would bring a different design, pattern and effect. I was fascinated by it all. Over the past 50 years of my journey of faith I have come to services of communion, having the same kind of experience. It seems each time I come to communion, it is in a different season of my life, and I come often for a different reason and experience a different outcome. As the weeks and months turn, it appears that the significance of this service has shifted too.
Communion is also like a diamond with many facets, each one transmitting the light differently. I can never predict what light shall shine forth from this many splendored thing, and so it rarely has become commonplace even when repeated frequently.
Let me share with you my experience in such moments. So just a clue as you read: this will not be a sermon. This will not be a professor or theologian speaking, but a fellow traveler on the journey of faith.
- There are times I have come to this hour breathless and stressed with over-busyness. In the busyness of the life of Jesus, he often found a quiet place for private prayer, and I have also found over and over again in the middle of a communion service, a quiet place for private prayer. It is here that I have found a resting place in the maelstrom of a hectic life. It is here that I have found the strength to mount up with wings as an eagle, and to run and not be weary and to walk and not grow faint.
- At other times I have come limping to this hour, bruised by my conflicts with the world, with the church, with my own folly, still hurting from the memories of wrongs received and perpetrated. Here I have found healing for a sore heart and a disturbed mind. I have also come at times ill in my body, and asked for his healing of those things that would hinder me in following him or doing his will. And here too, have found healing for the illness, or grace to live with the thorns.
- At times I have come reluctantly to this hour, aware of my sinfulness and aware of such little desire to change. I have come aware that I have been in the wrong, or have been in the right but have become self-righteous about it. In those moments I have taken bread & wine because I am supposed to, but not because I wanted to. In such moments God has had to do serious work on my attitudes. But it is also here that fresh forgiveness has been received.
- At times I have come to this hour in the mood of celebration and exhilaration. I have become aware that I am immersed in God’s grace and goodness. This has been an altar where I have offered with joy the sacrifices of thanksgiving. Here I have celebrated what some parts of God’s great Church call the Eucharist, the great thanksgiving.
- On other occasions I have come to this hour aware of my need to prepare myself for a ministry opportunity that lies before me. The task ahead has loomed large. I have sensed my own weakness and insufficiency. During this hour I have asked for wisdom, for courage, for his strength. In such a moment as this he has renewed my passion, stirred up my imagination, and assured me of his presence for the days ahead.
- There have been other times when I have been in contact with the crudeness and vulgarity of the world at its worst. Coming from those moments I felt the need for a cleansing from words heard, and from deeds seen, and have felt the need to have my heart and mind washed with clean water. And I have prayed afresh “Cleanse the thoughts of my heart by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit.” And by his grace the memory of foul things has been replaced with “whatsoever things are true & beautiful, just and pure.”
- There are other moments, however, quite different, when I have rejoiced in belonging to God’s great church in such a moment, and have come to this service to participate in the very words and prayers that multiplied millions of believers have prayed before me.
- In this service we pray words that have been prayed throughout the centuries by people of like-faith, from across denominational boundaries, and in these ancient words I feel myself part of something bigger than any other reality in history. I sense my solidarity with all the saints that have gone before. At communion I stand with apostles and prophets, saints & martyrs, and here resolve to keep faith with them and the Lord they served.
- There are other times, and perhaps this has been the majority of times, when I have come to this table with no emotion, no sense of God’s presence, and no sense of my need. I come without reflecting much about the significance of the service. I simply come because it is one of the better habits of my life. I also leave this hour sensing no lift, experiencing no exhilaration, and feeling no different than when I came. But that is all right too. The value of this hour has little to do with how I feel. Coming to this table for me is simply a declaration of my allegiance to Christ and to His church. It is my way of casting my vote in favour of God’s rule in my life, and in my church and in my world. It is an act that declares publicly my openness to the possibility of God advancing his work in my life. So, I come to the place where God has promised to meet with all of us from time to time.
- And if any of those reasons have not been enough for me, I come because he has expressed his desire for me to me to come. Hear the words of Jesus on the night of the betrayal: “With desire have I desired to eat this Passover with you before I die.” I come because I want to please him and bring him joy. For taking communion is not all about me & my needs, it’s about Him and his wishes!
I am not sure in what state you find yourself this day. But an invitation has been offered to each of us to come.
Hear the words of Jesus
- “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
- “Come apart and rest awhile.”
- “Tarry until you are endued with power from on high.”
But whoever you are, and wherever you are, come to eat and drink and find yourself forgiven, healed, restored, equipped or made glad.