The window before us this morning is about Communion, or what we also call The Lord’s Supper.
I have to admit this window fooled me. I saw Jesus at a table with two disciples. I saw that the scripture verse for that window is from the Gospel of Luke. There is a wonderful story in Luke of Jesus coming along two disciples on the road to Emmaus on the evening of his resurrection. It ends with him breaking bread for these two people. I assumed that this was what the window commemorated, and I was excited to preach it because it is such a fabulous event in the gospel. But then I realized that story is in Luke 24 and the scripture in this window is Luke 22. Luke 22 is when Jesus first shares Communion with all twelve disciples before he is arrested and crucified. This is what our window is depicting. The window wasn’t large enough to fit in the other ten so we see the Lord with two disciples.
Jesus gathered with his disciples because it was the Passover, also called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Communion is a Christian practice but deeply rooted in the Old Testament. It grew out of the Jewish Passover because of what Jesus did with the disciples the night before he died.
Passover originates the book of Exodus. In Exodus, before God brought the final plague upon Egypt in order to free his people from slavery, he told Moses and Aaron to have the people share in a meal. The meal involved the killing of a lamb without blemish, putting some of the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of their dwellings, and then eating the lamb. One of the parts of the meal was unleavened bread because they didn’t have time to let the bread rise because they were going to have to pack up and get out of Egypt in a hurry.
God said he would pass over the houses that had the blood of the lamb smeared on the door posts. Of course, those homes were those of the Hebrews. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and it is his blood that now covers us.
This came to be known as the Passover meal or Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Lord commanded that it be kept each year from then on. And Jews still keep this meal in some form to this day.
This is why Jesus gathered with his disciples. They were Jews and they were going to celebrate the Passover. He told them to find a place and the makings for the Passover meal.
Matthew, Mark and Luke all speak of this event. Paul also mentions it in 1 Corinthians. Luke’s Communion account helps us understand three vital parts of the Lord’s Supper.
1) It is a table of thanks.
2) It is a table of remembrance.
3) It speaks to us of the new covenant.
1. Luke tells us that when the hour came to share the Passover Jesus reclined at the table with his disciples. The table in the ancient middle east was not a high table as we think or what is in this window. Even to this day, people will eat on a small table that is very low to the floor. People sit on the floor and will often recline on a pillow or prop their bodies with an arm or sit sideways.
Meal tables are places of sharing, places of togetherness, places of acceptance. It is an honor to be invited to someone’s table for a meal. We look forward to going to friends or family for a meal or going out to eat with people.
This week a good friend of ours is retiring from the United States Air Force. The family invited us to a dinner with his family to celebrate. We felt very honored to be included.
Jesus said he was “eager” to share this meal with his disciples. We aren’t told why our Lord was eager. Eager because he wanted to be with them before he would die? Eager to assure them of the new way of relating to God that would come through his work that this meal would forever commemorate? Whatever the reason, Jesus wants to be there.
And it says during the meal,
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.”
Jesus gives thanks. For what does he give thanks? Gratitude is a key part of the prayer tradition for Jewish people. It extends back to biblical times before Jesus. There are prayers thanking God for who he is, what he has done for his people, and the future he is making for his people. I suspect Jesus was praying along these lines.
Thanks is a vital part of Communion. Sometimes this meal is called the Eucharist which is a word that means to give thanks.
Here we give thanks for God’s good creation. We give thanks that we are made in the image of God. We give thanks for Jesus Christ and all he said and did. We give thanks that “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”
We give thanks that even when we turned our backs on God he didn’t turn his back on us. We give thanks for the forgiveness of sins, for mercy, for God’s love, for the ways he has worked in our lives. We give thanks for the simple blessings of life, food, water, shelter, friendship, family, health.
When you take the bread think of what makes you thankful.
2. Second, Communion is a table of remembrance.
Jesus breaks and gives the bread to his disciples telling them to do this in remembrance of him. The Passover meal was the main way Jews remembered. When Jews shared in Passover they remembered what God had done in Egypt, freeing them, and making them a people.
At a Jewish Passover, families and those gathered recount the story of their freedom from Egypt. And they are to remember it as if it was happening to them. Rabbis taught that (and I am using the traditional language that is masculine heavy) “In every generation a man must so regard himself as if he came forth himself out of Egypt, for it is written, ‘And you shall tell your son in that day, saying “It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came forth out of Egypt.”’”
At this table, we need to say “It is because of what the Lord did for me when he died and rose.”
I find I can sometimes be forgetful. Some of that forgetfulness is from getting older. The natural aging process weakens the mind. Where did I put my wallet? I was supposed to meet him? It’s Sunday morning, where am I supposed to be?
But sometimes I forget because of where I am emotionally. When I feel low I forget there are people who love me. When things don’t go my way I forget how much I really have going for me. Often in those times I need to remember there is a greater reality than just how I feel in that moment. There are deeper truths to live by. There are stronger promises to claim.
This table helps us remember that no matter how much of a hot mess we may be, no matter how weak our trust in God may be at a given time, his love for us never ends. Remember Judas is at this table and has already turned Jesus in. Yet, Jesus includes Judas in the bread and the cup.
And when we feel like we aren’t doing enough to please God we remember that our relationship to him is by grace – not what we do to earn it, but as a free gift.
If you feel lousy, if your spirit is faint, if you feel that God doesn’t love you because everything is so bad, come to this table and remember what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. Jog your memory. Remember how he sent his Son into this world and how he went to the cross for us. Remember how his grace is working for you. Remember that life is not without suffering but nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.
3. The third thing at this table is that Jesus said it was about a new covenant. A covenant is a relationship. The old covenant had been by the law. You keep the commandments then you are right with God. There were animal and grain sacrifices to make. There were lots of rules and regulations.
That covenant was confirmed with blood. Moses told Israel all the words and rules of the Lord. The people said that they would obey it. Then Moses took blood from animal sacrifices and threw it on the people. When he did that he said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
The thing was no one was any good at it. People kept failing. People weren’t living in the ways of God. God sent prophets with messages and warnings, but they still didn’t obey.
Jesus came to bring a new covenant – a new way of being in relationship to God.
This was not a new idea. The prophet Jeremiah, hundreds of years before Jesus, spoke of a new covenant that God would bring. Listen to what he said,
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each other, saying ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
In the new covenant God puts his law within people and writes it on their hearts. It is an inward thing. Jesus moves into us and takes up residence. How does he do that? The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians that it happens through the Holy Spirit. What Christ wants is written not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. And when something is in your heart you do it.
When your spouse or child is in your heart, you love them. You don’t have to be asked or coaxed. When your heart is in your job it is no problem doing it. You know the saying, “Follow your heart.” We don’t need to say it because that is what we do. When Christ is in your heart you live his ways.
“But”, you say, “sometimes I don’t live as Christ wants me to. I still fail.” And so, God said the new covenant would be about the forgiveness of sins. In Jesus Christ, God remembers our sins no more. Just like it took blood to confirm that first covenant when Moses threw blood on the people, so it is the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross that confirmed this new covenant that we live under. This blood isn’t thrown on believers, like Moses did. This blood is received into God’s people.
In the cup, Jesus gives his disciples the blood of the new covenant which is poured out for them. It is not literally the blood of Jesus, but we believe in some spiritual way it is his blood when we take it by faith. This is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus celebrates the Passover with his disciples but now he tells them not to remember the exodus so much as remember him. The exodus was the defining event that brought Israel into existence. That Jesus would put himself in place of that says something about who he believed he was and his mission.
Our forgiveness doesn’t come by the blood of animals anymore as it did under the old covenant. Now it comes in Jesus Christ.
This is what the window in our sanctuary takes us to.
In Communion we say “thank you.”
We celebrate the new covenant, the new relationship, we have with God in Christ. Whenever you do this remember your relationship with Jesus Christ. Ask his Spirit to grow in you. Ask him to forgive you. Ask him to keep you near him.
If you are a believer and worshipper of the Lord Jesus Christ you belong to a church and you share in Communion with other believers. Jesus did this with his first followers. Christians have been doing it ever since.
It is something we do together. Communion means “fellowship.” And we do it because our Lord said to do it. This comes from Christ himself. It is a gift. It is offered to those who want Jesus. We don’t have to be good enough. We don’t have to have a special level of faith. We don’t have to keep certain rules. We just have to have trust that what Christ did is for you.
This table and every Communion table is Jesus’ table. We come to him.
There you are at the table with Jesus.
He offers you bread. He offers you a cup.
What does he say to you?
How does he look at you?
What do you have to thank him for?
What do you remember about him and what he has done for you?
When we eat the bread and drink the cup we say, “Jesus, I accept the new covenant – the new relationship – you make for me with you. And I desire to live by it.”
Jesus didn’t give us a special prayer to remember him. He didn’t tell his disciples to climb a high mountain and meditate for a day. He didn’t give us any massive act to do to remember this relationship. He gave bread and a cup and just said take it into you.
Together let’s come to the table now.