Sunday, August 21, 2016

Remembered

We have Communion every week. That’s not what most Protestant churches do. When the suggestion is made for a church to make the change to weekly Communion one of the comments that will pop up goes something like this. ‘But it will become so rote.’ Obviously, that’s not good. Things that are rote lose their meaning and quickly become empty rituals. This morning I want to talk about this danger of the Lord’s Supper becoming rote and empty. But I’m not going to do that by giving you a lot of information to refute arguments. What I want to do is speak about your experience of Communion, about how you feel about it, especially as it is happening. There will be some more information, but that isn’t what I want to focus on. I want you to feel something when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. That’s my goal.

To get there, we’re going to take another look at Noah. Listen to what God said to him.


Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” Genesis 9.8-17

God made a promise to Noah and all his descendants. There won’t be another flood like the one that Noah just survived. And to impress upon Noah - and us - the certainty of that promise God did two things. First, He made that promise the heart of a covenant. It’s as if God drew up a contract, ‘I, God, promise no more floods like that one’, signed it and then handed it to Noah. He now is obligated. He has to keep that promise.

Then, there’s the other thing God did. He established a reminder of this promise: rainbows.

When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh.

If you think about it, rainbows are a very appropriate reminder of this promise. They are seen as a result of the sunlight beaming through water droplets in the air, something that happens after there’s been some rain. It’s as if God were saying, ‘Yes, it just rained. But it didn’t rain for forty days and forty nights, did it? All life was not wiped out, was it? I’m keeping My promise, and I will continue to do that.’

The rainbow is a reminder to us. It’s a sign that God is keeping His promise. And that becomes a big deal when you consider that we really do deserve another massive flood these days.

But rainbows are not just a reminder to us. They are also a reminder to God.

When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember...

As God sees the rainbow, He is reminded. He is reminded to keep His promise, a promise made by covenant.

All of this can help us in our experience of the Lord’s Supper.

God has made other promises and other covenants since the days of Noah. One of those is the New Covenant. Jesus spoke about that at the Last Supper. The heart of this covenant is another promise. We’re used to hearing this promise in terms of rescue from sin and evil and death. And that, of course, is true. But let’s put it in positive terms and not just negative. Jesus has promised that He will make us into whole people. He has promised to make us healthy in body and soul. That’s His promise. And He assures us of it by covenant.

And just as He did with Noah, He established reminders of that promise. And one of those reminders is the Lord’s Supper. It’s a reminder of His promise to make us into whole and healthy people. And just like rainbows for the covenant with Noah, the Supper is a very appropriate reminder of that promise to be made whole and healthy.

Think about it. What’s Communion? It’s bread and wine. Why did Jesus choose these things to be reminders? Well, they’re food. And what’s food for? One important thing that food is for is to nourish our bodies. You feed your kids with good food in the expectation that it will cause them to mature into healthy adults. Food is for nourishment. Food is intended for our health.

This explains how the bread and the wine are very appropriate reminders of the promise of the New Covenant. Jesus has promised to make us whole and healthy people. He uses food to be a reminder of that promise. He uses food to be a reminder that He has promised to nourish our souls so that we would mature into healthy disciples, into whole and healthy people.

Rainbows in the sky are reminders of no more all-destroying floods. Bread and wine consumed are reminders of becoming whole and healthy people.

So, what is happening when you take Communion? What’s happening as you hold the bread and the wine in your hands? Jesus is remembering. He is remembering His promise. That’s what happens when He sees the rainbow. And that’s what’s happening when He sees the bread and the wine. He is remembering His promise to make you whole and healthy people. The bread and wine is food not for our bodies but for our souls, nourishing them, strengthen them, giving them greater and greater health. This food feeds our souls. As you take, Jesus is remembering. And as He remembers, He acts. He blesses your soul with greater health. He takes another step in making you whole, just as He promised.

But there is something else happening at the same time. You are remembering. You are remembering Jesus’ promise. Just as you remember God’s promise when you see the rainbow in the sky, you remember Jesus’ promise as you hold the bread and the wine. And you can tell yourself, ‘Jesus is keeping His promise. He is making me into a whole and healthy person.’

Now, to be sure, this is not automatic. There is no magic going on here. There are plenty of people who see rainbows, and all they think about is how pretty they are. But that’s all. However, when you, a Christian, look at a rainbow your thoughts go to the promise of God. No more floods like that big one. What makes this work isn’t magic but faith, the faith that you have and others don’t, faith in the promise of God. No more floods like that big one.

The same applies to the bread and the wine. There’s no magic here. But where there is faith, things happen. The bread and the wine remind us of Jesus’ promise to make us whole and healthy. We are reminded and believe. And Jesus responds to our faith. He blesses us with a bit more health and a bit more wholeness. He keeps His promise. And that’s how the bread and the wine become tools by which Jesus blesses us.

So, what is Communion about? It’s about experiencing the nearness of Jesus. He is busy. He is acting. He is keeping His promise - to you. We celebrate the Lord’s Supper as a group and are blessed as a group. But the Supper also speaks to us one by one. We each can say, ‘Jesus is keeping His promise to me’.

So, when you ask yourself, ‘Is Jesus doing anything in my life?’, you can answer with a hearty, ‘Yes!’ And why can you say that? What reason can you give yourself for this optimism? At the very least you can tell yourself, ‘I enjoyed the Lord’s Supper last Sunday. Jesus remembered His promise and once again acted on it. Yes, He is doing things in my life. He is keeping His promise to make me whole and healthy.’

I want to suggest a word that I think fits here. This is a word that captures one rather important aspect of what the Supper is about. And it’s the word, ‘remembered’. It is easy to feel forgotten in the midst of a too-busy life. To feel alone. To feel lost in the mass of humanity so that it feels as if even Jesus doesn’t know what’s going on with you. But that just isn’t true. You are not forgotten. When Jesus sees you with the bread and the wine He remembers. He remembers His promise. And He remembers that He made that promise to you. He remembers you.

This isn’t the only time Jesus remembers you. By no means! But it is a special time because it is a time when you also remember. You are reminded that Jesus remembers you. And if we know that we are remembered by Jesus what else do we need?

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