August 5, 2018 – Pastor Teressa Sivers
1 John 4:7-21 (CEB)
This is the Table of Holy Communion. Here we embody our faith. Here we enact our spiritual journey. Here we practice what we will live day-to-day. Jesus knew that living his way day after day after day would be hard, but putting all the details for this holy living into words was impossible. And so, Jesus gifted us with ritual…with symbolic action. He gifted us with a bath—our baptism—and a meal. In water and in table fellowship we embody our walk with God.
This is the Bread (lifts communion bread)…the Bread of Life! This literal bread—gluten free—is finite. The little piece you will receive in a few moments won’t stave off hunger. It won’t even cure the rumblies. And, even if we broke this bread into the tiniest of pieces, it could only feed so many. But, this bread represents so much more! Yes! Jesus’ body, Jesus’ life, but more importantly, Jesus’ love. You are what you eat! This bread nourish us, transforms us. It brings us closer to wholeness. Though this bread is finite, what it represents is infinite. Abundance for ALL—all people, all creation! It fills us to overflowing, and then it overflows from us to nourish and transform our family in God and the world. Grain of the earth, stuff of creation, opening a doorway to God!
This is the Cup (lifts communion cup)…the Cup of Salvation. This literal cup—grape juice—is finite. The little dip we make that will moisten our bread won’t satisfy any literal thirst. It won’t even wet your whistle. And, even if we dip only the tiniest tip of each bread piece in it, the cup will only last so long. But this cup represents so much more! Yes! Jesus’ blood, Jesus’ Spirit, but more importantly, Jesus’ love…poured out…poured out on us. This cup satisfies our spiritual thirst. It refreshes and restores us. Though our cup is finite, what it represents is infinite. Abundance for ALL—all people, all creation! It fills us to overflowing, and then it overflows from us to refresh and restore our family in God and all the world. Fruit of the vine, stuff of creation, opening a doorway to God!
Holy Communion is a sacrament—sacred and holy, yes, but also a mystery, from the ancient Greek roots for ‘sacrament.’ It is a mystery because it is greater than our ability to understand. Something happens here that we can’t really explain. A doorway opens to God and we encounter a love that is beyond us, beyond words. Mystery is something to be simply experienced and then embodied.
The author of 1 John is trying to give words to this mystery, trying to give voice to this love—God’s love—God as Love. The author is seeking to open us to experience this love, calling us to embody this love, to embody God. Because, you see, the church or churches the author is addressing seem to be having problems with this. They are arguing theology—not constructive debate on the nuances of belief but divisive fighting about the nature of Christ. They are striving to erect boundaries around and within their faith community, naming who is in and who is out. They are living in fear, fear of punishment. They are wrestling with pain and with fractures in their wholeness which not only effects the faith family, it has an impact on the world.
And so, 1 John not only addresses these first century churches, 1 John addresses all churches in all times and in all places, and all her people. Discussions of belief and doctrine too often devolve into divisive fights. Churches are constantly erecting walls and barriers, as if God’s love could possibly be confined or contained. Churches struggle with fear and with pain and with fracturing. We see all this in our United Methodist Church today. What is the answer to all this? The author of 1 John declares with all their being…LOVE! God’s love! Agape! And how do we experience this love? How do we encounter it so we can embody it?
Here is the Bread of Life, the Bread of nourishment.
Here is the Cup of Love, the Cup of refreshment and restoration.
This (lifts oil cruet) is the oil of anointing, the oil of gladness from Isaiah’s grand vision of the oil pouring over the head and down the face—oil to touch us with tears of healing.
Here is perfect Love that casts out all our fears. This is the Table of Jesus Christ. Here we come face to face with Love.
But, before we can come to this Table of mystery and holiness, we must turn our thoughts to our family in God and to all the world—hungering and thirsting for nourishment and refreshment. In gratitude for this doorway to love before us, let this gratitude pour forth from us in generosity, calling us to share our gifts with the world. Let us give!