Many years ago while I was in my first call, I had the privilege of teaching the Sunday School children what communion meant. About 100 children from the age three or four through age fifteen or so gathered in the social hall while the adults worshiped in the sanctuary. I went through each part of the worship service and carefully explained what it was and why it was included in worship. The anticipation and excitement built as we neared the time for communion.
It was all fairly routine until I said the Words of Institution and the Prayer of Consecration. At this point the youngest children were on their feet jumping up and down because they were going to be able to participate in communion. They could not contain their enthusiastic excitement. It was a joy to watch them take pieces of bread and then the tiny cups of juice with such innocence and reverence.
When the service ended and the parents came to collect their children, the little ones couldn’t wait to share what they had done. There were many shouts of “Mommy! Mommy! Guess what? I got communion! Bread and juice!” These children literally could not contain their excitement and passion about being included in the sacrament. And, on some level, they understood what they had done. I overheard more than one child explain a little impatiently to a parent who had asked what it all meant. The children all said something like, “I got to be like the grownups and share Jesus.”
From where I stood, these kids were not like the grownups at all. The newness of participation in the sacrament awakened something in them that radiated outward. To this day, I’ve never seen an adult as excited by the prospect of “sharing Jesus” the way those children were. For most of us, the sacrament of communion has become routine and mundane. We have lost touch with the excitement, the passion, and the power of sharing bread and cup.
I can’t help but think that Jesus would have welcomed some enthusiasm for eating and drinking, for “sharing Jesus” when he tried to teach the crowd that they needed to have a faith so active that they lived in him and he in them. There was no jumping up and down in anticipation that day. Most seem to have been perplexed by Jesus’ invitation to eat his flesh and drink his blood. What they wanted was actual bread in their bellies, never mind the Bread of Life stuff that confused them to no end.
We’re confused, too. While we agree that Jesus isn’t inviting cannibalism, we aren’t really sure what was talking about. Many folks want to make it all about the sacrament of communion and use it to underscore their particular theological beliefs and practices. Other’s want to say that Jesus is talking about Incarnation and how we can participate in it. Most of us read through the passage in a hurry to move on to something more concrete. Yet, we might benefit from lingering in discomfort for a bit.
If you have made your way to a communion table and you’ve eaten the bread and drank from the cup, is there any evidence in your life that you have done this? Is your faith active and alive enough that others can tell that Christ lives in you and you live in Christ? I know these are weird, discomforting questions. Yet, this is what Jesus was inviting that ancient crowd to do – intentionally make room for the indwelling Holy Spirit. Eat the Bread of Life, drink the Cup of Blessing so that you are transformed by them. You are not just you, but you are also Christ alive in you. We need to be grownups and share Jesus, internally and externally in the world. We don’t need to do this to save anyone’s soul, but because there are lives out there that need saving.
We are the Body of Christ. Together we are the Bread of Life and the Cup of Blessing and we should be jumping up and down with excitement and enthusiasm because we get to share Jesus in ways that can transform the world.
RCL – Year B – Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 19, 2018
1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14 with Psalm 111 or
Proverbs 9:1-6 with Psalm 34:9-14