Rev. George Miller
“The Gift of Communion”
Oct 7, 2012
Last night I was invited to a gathering made up of shady buckeye-wearing troublemakers who liked to eat anything they could be put on a cracker, sing loud songs, and watch men brutalize one another on a field.
Now, I understand the rules of etiquette. When invited to such a gathering, one should bring a small gift of appreciation; one should bring a dish to share.
Don’t hog up all the food, don’t drink up all the host’s liquor and send a letter of gratitude as soon as possible.
Yet, due to poor planning I simply ran out of time to get a gift and something to bring.
I had three options: not go because of this, stop at the store on the way there and be extremely late, or trust that my hosts would be gracious enough to understand.
Which they were; and I was warmly welcomed and very well fed.
Which got me thinking: if my hosts, who are only human, could be that forgiving and accepting of me, then how much more so is God?
If I can enter their home with nothing to give but myself and still be offered something to eat, how much more so is God willing to feed us?
Today, in honor of it being World Communion Sunday, it is good for us to explore what the Lord’s Supper means.
If you were to ask folk what Communion is, there are those who would say it’s a somber time, others would refer to it as a sacrifice; others will say it means that service will last 15 minutes longer.
To which some people may respond “Yes,” “Yes”, and “Oh lord, yes!”
I used to be one of those people, but over the years there have been a number of services that have reshaped my view.
There was the Communion in Missouri which took place in the fall of 2001. I had just started seminary and was interning at a nursing home.
As the tray of juice was passed down the back row of the chapel, an elderly man, living with an acute form of rheumatoid arthritis went to take one of the plastic cups and dropped it.
His wife was so upset. She quickly picked up the cup and gave him a second one, and I watched as he struggled, and she helped, and he sipped the juice.
In that instant I saw that Communion is about tradition. For some folks it is what they have always done, therefore it is important to be able to participate in any way.
Then there was a communion in Washington State during the summer of 2003. It was at a church enmeshed in turmoil; members of the black community were upset with certain members of the gay community and the pastor was caught in the middle with a moderator who was mad at her.
The service was done by intinction and there was something about that moment in which the bread was broken in which hearts were open.
The folk who had been feuding came forward with tears in their eyes, and in front of the congregation, the moderator and pastor hugged one another.
That day I learned that Communion is also about reconciliation; that by sharing a meal at the Lord’s Table, relationships can be restored and kindness can be shown to another.
There was the Communion Service in Michigan in the spring of 2007. It was Maundy Thursday and I was the pastor.
My co-leader was a young woman named Tammy who was someone you would call a “seeker” meaning she had always been spiritual but had yet to fully grasp what it meant to be a Christian.
We’re leading the worship, Tammy is standing right beside me and once she took the cup and began to speak, I could literally feel the Spirit swoop down and enter her.
As Tammy spoke the words “This is my blood” she began to choke up. It was probably the first time she had actually “heard” those words.
I believe it was that moment when she realized it just wasn’t about a piece of bread or some grape juice, but it was about a body that was being broken, blood that was being spilled, as a sign of how much we are loved.
That day I learned that Communion is transformational. That it can become a before-and-after-moment in our lives in which we realize just whose we are and what it’s really all about…
…so Communion has been described at traditional, reconciliational, and transformational.
I would also say that Communion is relational.
It is a time in which we discover that God loves us, that we are enough.
There is no material gift we are required to bring; there is no side dish we are supposed to share; there is no “thank you” note to post in the mail.
When it comes to Communion all we really need to do is to humbly receive it...
…Hasn’t it seemed like for the last few months all you’ve been hearing from up here is “give, give, give”?
“Give goods to the Feed My Sheep Jeep.” “Today we are taking two offerings for Agape Sunday.” “Don’t forget next week’s the Global Mission Fair.” “Bring a dish to share at potluck.” “We’re collecting candy for Trunk-O-Treat.”
Not to mention soon it’ll be Harvest Home, the Annual Meeting and Stewardship Season.
Is it just me or has our church become a lot about giving your time, giving your talents, giving your money?
And sometimes that can feel so exhausting.
If you feel this way (and I know plenty of you do), for the next few minutes you’re going to hear something different.
We have this beautifully written scripture before us; a prophecy by Micah who takes on a dialogue between the people and God.
The people realize they have made some grave mistakes; they’ve grown greedy and unjust; they’ve become big bullies on an international scale.
They realize how far they have gone off the path and they fear they’ve done too much wrong to ever make things right again with God.
But they try.
Perhaps they can offer up a few calves, or thousands of rams. Or perhaps so much olive oil it could fill the Mississippi.
They are so full of despair that they think the only way they can make things right is to give and give and give until it hurts.
But God is not a greedy host. God is not someone who can be bought off with material things.
What God’s looking for is something much more meaningful, much more relational.
What God says is “I don’t need a fancy meal of filet mignon; I don’t need bottles of Gucci or Polo cologne. All I want is you.”
What God says is “Aren’t I enough? I have delivered you from slavery. I have given leaders to watch over you. I have protected you from your enemies.”
“Instead of giving me a BBQ give me you.”
That is what God wants. Not a gift or a side dish or even a thank you card.
It is not a thing at all that God wants: it’s us. It is you. It is me. God just wants us; to be present, to be real.
For proof of that, just look at the table that’s been prepared before you. How God wants to feed us.
God wants to share something that is about tradition, about reconciliation, about transformation.
And instead of writing a thank you card, it is our actions that will become enough.
Because not only is Communion about all those others things, it is also about fortification; spiritual fortification to accomplish the things God desires:
for us to do justice, to love kindness, and to humbly walk with God.
Could it be any simpler?
The prophet Micah breaks it down for us in a way that anyone can understand.
If God is truly enough, then we are to do the things that we know are right and the things we know to be just.
If God is truly enough, then instead of always being so angry or quick to judge, we are to love kindness and mercy, sharing it with others through acts of forgiveness and understanding.
If God is truly enough, then we are to walk with God, the way we would with our lover, our child, our friend, and to let God be a part of who we are and what we do.
In conclusion, today is World Communion Sunday, and if we truly love God, if you believe that God is enough, then we are to let God feed us.
We don’t have to bring anything but ourselves, and after we are fed, we can go and do what we know to be right.
And if we accept that we are enough; if we let God care for us, we have the ability to do and to love and to walk in such a way that it can transform families, it can transform neighborhoods, and it can transform communities.
God can transform us all.
So God is waiting. Will we join God at the table, realizing that we are enough and accepting what God has to give?
If so, let us say “Hallelujah!” Let us say “Amen.”