Archive for June, 2011

From time to time, I am asked why we celebrate Holy Communion on a weekly basis (at least at Sunday Morning Blend).  I pulled this post together about a year ago and felt it was a great one to revisit.

I believe the sacrament of Holy Communion should be celebrated as often as possible in the worship service.  I am not ashamed of that fact. In fact, I’m proud of that belief.

What is Holy Communion?  It’s more than just a “remembrance” of something Jesus did.  In fact, Holy Communion is a re-presentation of Christ.

As Methodists we affirm the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine used in Communion.  We call that the Holy Mystery!  Eucharist, another word for Communion, means thanksgiving.  And it is at the Communion Table when the Church of the past, present and future are connected with the Kingdom of Heaven (We call that Communion of the Saints!).

One of my favorite sermons from John Wesley is called, “The Duty of Constant Communion.”  It’s really a sermon with two key parts.  First, Wesley lays the groundwork for Communion and then he answers the common objections that he heard to “constant Communion.”

What follows is my attempt to ask the objection as a question and then to provide a summation of Wesley’s response to that objection:

Objection: God doesn’t command us to do this as “often as we can.”

Answer: Wesley’s response is that Holy Communion is a command of God and Wesley asks the question, “Are we not to obey every command of God as often as we can?” And Wesley says that we can see how absurd that objection is when we think through the contrary view — that we are not obligated to obey every commandment of God as often as we can.  It means that we are not bound to obey God at any time or place.  For example, we don’t take God’s command, “Thou shalt not kill,” to mean “Thou Shalt Not Kill” once every three months.  God’s commands come with an understanding of constant obedience.

Objection: I’m not worthy to participate in Holy Communion.

Answer: Wesley says you might feel that way, but God has offered you “one of the greatest mercies on this side heaven, and commands you to accept it.” Wesley says that God offers us a pardon for sin and we’re not worthy of that, but if God is “pleased” to offer it to us, then why wouldn’t we accept it?  He also asks if, when we say we are not worthy to participate, if we are really asking if we are unworthy to obey what God commands.  In other words he says, it’s like choosing that, since we are already unworthy of God, we don’t have to make an effort to be obedient.  In fact, Wesley goes on to say, that if you’ve committed sin, then repent and come to the table, don’t just neglect to participate.

Objection: I just can’t truly prepare myself for Communion if we have it all the time.

Answer: Wesley says that all the preparation needed for Holy Communion is contained in the statement, “Repent you truly of yours sins past, have faith in Christ our Savior, amend your lives, and be in charity with all men.”

If you are willing to confess your sins, repent and hold onto Christ, then you are ready for the table.

Objection: Constant communion takes away from the reverence of the Sacarament.

Answer: This is something Wesley seems to have heard before and his answer to this is direct and to the point.  Wesley says, “Suppose it does.”  Wesley asks, does the fact that Holy Communion is “less reverent” because you do it constantly take away from the fact that God has commanded you to do it? He continues by asking, has God ever told you that you don’t have to obey a command just because it seems less reverent?

Wesley really points to two kinds of “reverence.”  There is this reverence that people have toward something that is new, something that we don’t understand.  He calls this natural reverence.  And then there’s the reverence that we have out of our faith, out of our love or fear of God.  Sure, he says, receiving constant communion does diminish the natural reverence, the human reverence, but it doesn’t lessen true religious reverence — in fact, constant communion confirms it and increases it.

Objection: I’ve tried constant Communion and I see no benefit in it to me.

Answer: Wesley points to our sense of obedience to God — we are called to obey God’s commands because they are God’s commands, not because they bring some benefit to us.  In other words, it’s not all about us.

Constant communion keeps us from falling back (or backsliding) and it makes us more fit for Christian service, according to Wesley.  Wesley says that if we find “no benefit” from Holy Communion, then we need to examine ourselves to make sure that we are prepared to receive it.

Summary (From Wesley!)
If we consider Holy Communion to be a command of Christ, then we have no excuse not to celebrate it as often as we can.  Second, if we see Holy Communion as God’s way of showing mercy to us, then a person who doesn’t participate in it as often as possible isn’t showing much Christian prudence. Third, there is no excuse that can be made that excuses us from obeying this command and accepting this mercy.

What does Holy Communion mean to me personally?

There are so many things today that separate us from one another.  There are so many differences even among people in the church.  Holy Communion is a reminder that, despite all of the differences we have with one another, we all still come before God in the same place.  We are need in mercy and we are craving grace.

One of the coolest parts for me as a pastor is to see a line of people who are very different from one another standing in line to take part in the Lord’s Meal.  They take the bread, dip it in the cup and find places around the altar rail.  In that moment, everything that makes us different is pulled away and we are truly children of God.

Going large for Christ

Posted: June 1, 2011 in Uncategorized

How do we continue to live out our mission?

That was a question proposed at a recent youth conference in a breakout session on lessons the church can learn from Disney.  A Disney executive and active member in his local church in California shared some insights as to how the company behind the “happiest place on earth” looks at moving forward after a success.  And it boils down to three basic ways.

1)      Clones.  This is the easiest way to approach anything.  We have a great service, a great event in the church and the mindset can be, “Well, do it exactly the same way next time. It works.”  We can never really recreate all of the circumstances that led to the “successful” event in the first place.  Over time, it’s like making copies of copies of copies in the copier machine.  It’s just not the same.

2)      Get wrapped up in the “cost.”  Sometimes it’s easy to look at programs and ministries in the church and say, well, that’s costing us way too much.  We should be able to do it cheaper.  The cheapest option, however, is rarely in keeping with good stewardship.  For Disney, making direct-to-DVD sequels is a cheap option but the sequels never live up to the originals in terms of story, experience and quality.

3)      Go large.  The third option and the most often employed in growing organizations is to go large.  We realize that last year’s event was good, so we ramp it up for this year.  We realize that last year’s Advent series was great, but we want this year’s to be even better.  It’s Disney’s approach with the Toy Story movies – each of the sequels has been bigger in terms of story and characters than the previous entry.  Our question then as a church, is how do we take the experiences, the things that hit us in the heart and mind, and make them even bigger?

The lesson for the church, according to this Disney executive, is that we should always be looking to take the things we do at least one more step beyond where they are now.  It’s part of the growing process for us, the lifetime walk of moving closer and closer to Christ.

And I look back to Jesus who did some amazing things in his earthly ministry.  But he gave the “go large” philosophy to his disciples.

In John 14, Jesus tells his disciples that they will do “even greater works” than he did.  How are we going to “Go Large” in our faith?