The Meaning of Communion (143)
James R. Davis
Have you ever moved from one house to another? When we move, we almost always go through our personal belongings and try to discard things that we haven't used in years. When we get through with the sorting, we usually end up with a few drawers full of what others would call junk. We cannot bring ourselves to throw the stuff away. As we touch them, handle and look at these items they bring back fond memories. They are common things that have a meaning far beyond their intrinsic value.
I remember spending four years in the Air Force. When you enter a branch of service you receive a metal Identification Tag. We called it our "dog tag". After being discharged from service I put this dog tag on my key chain and carried it around for 25 years. It wasn't an icon or my rabbit's foot but it is a reminder of where I had spent four years of my life as a young man.
There is a difference between a sacrament and an icon. We must be careful because sometimes such items can become an icon. When Moses made a brass serpent and lifted it upon a pole to save the Israelites in their rebellion the brass serpent was placed in the Tent of the Tabernacle as a reminder. But later it became an icon.
II Kings 18:4
Symbolism has always played an important role with God's people.
Jesus took ancient symbols at the Passover, and gave them a new meaning. The same emblems would represent his blood, his sinless life and his body given on the cross for our sins.
II. Importance of Remembering.
There is a direct correlation between the accuracy of our memory and the effectiveness our mission.
A lonely destroyer skipper ran his ship with both strength and compassion, but he kept almost entirely to himself. He had one ritual, however, which puzzled his fellow officers almost beyond endurance. Every morning before coming up to the bridge he would unlock a special drawer in his desk, take out a strongbox, unlock it, remove a small scrap of paper, read it carefully, return it to the strongbox, replace the box in the drawer, and lock the drawer. One day, during a heavy air attack the skipper was killed. After the funeral, his executive officer led a mad dash to the captain's cabin, unlocked the special drawer, removed the strongbox, unlocked it, removed the mysterious scrap of paper, and examined it carefully while his companions waited breathlessly. On it was written, "Port is left; starboard is right."
Likewise if we lose sight of the cross of Christ we want know our right from the left, we want know what is right and what is wrong.
2 Peter 1:12-16
Without remembering there is a loss of personal identity with no sense of self. This is the basis for the biblical commands to remember. Without memory we lose our ability to make centered decisions, to take initiative.
We may not be teaching people what to do be saved because we have forgotten what it means to be lost.
We may not be teaching the message of forgiveness because we have forgotten what it was like to be guilty.
If we are not preaching the cross, maybe subconsciously it is because we have forgotten its appeal.
Paul admonished Timothy to remember Jesus.
1 Cor 11:24-27
No church will survive without focusing on Jesus. Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper by saying: This is my body. This is my blood. This is shed for many. Do it in remembrance of me. Paul said, " For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come."
Jesus is the focal point. It is easy to lose sight of Jesus.
III. Important Things to Remember
When we gather around the Lord's Table we are brought to the foot of the cross to be reminded that we must trust in God's grace.
Jesus Christ reminds us of our position before we became children of God.
Because of his great devotion and faithfulness to his king, a Persian shepherd was promoted to the position of Prime Minister. The other ministers were angry that one of such lowly origin should be so highly honored. They therefore sought to bring in some evil report that would place him in disfavor. After watching him closely, they found nothing objectionable except that once a week they found nothing objectionable except that once a week he would enter a little room which he kept locked and would shut himself in for an hours. The noblemen informed their monarch of this, declaring that they were certain he must be gathering there a secret hoard of his master's precious possessions. The king doubted their story, but gave them permission to break in and search the room. The only thing they found was a small bundle containing a dilapidated pair of shoes and an old robe. Brought before the ruler, the minister was asked why he kept them, and he replied, I wore these things when I was a shepherd. I look at them regularly lest I should forget what I once was and how unworthy I am of all the kindness and honor your majesty has bestowed upon me."
We are reminded that we must trust in God's righteousness; we have none of our own. We are reminded that God is the source of life. As we focus on communion it emphasizes what God does . . . not what we do. The cross brings us face to face with our worst failures. It is here, that we are forced to focus on the source of life.
Men want to provide their own security. When God was raining bread, which was called Manna, from heaven many tried to gather enough to last more than one day and it would be eaten by worms. They had no alternative but to trust God. God led them through a wilderness with massive roadblocks.
Today Jesus Christ is the BREAD OF LIFE.
As we come to the Cross we must learn the lesson of humility. We must understand our smallness. It is impossible to salvage our lives without God.
When we depend upon man, we get only what man can do; when we depend on grace, we get what God can do.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15
We are reminded that Christ is our salvation. "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5) "For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." (Romans 5:6)
We are reminded that God's grace reigns through his righteousness.
I John 2:2
It is important for us to remember the joy of our salvation.
Dr. Paul s. Rees wrote, "Sometime ago I saw an intriguing tittle, 'Gloomy Caesar and Happy Jesus.' In the short article that followed, the author contrasted what e know of Tiberius Caesar, who ruled Rome in A. D. 30, with what we know of the Savior. Of Tiberius with all his power, pomp and possessions, the historian Pliny wrote, 'He is the gloomiest of mankind.' But of Jesus we read that sitting in the shadow of His cross, He took bread and gave thanks and broke it and gave unto them, and when the holy supper was over, they sang a 'hymn' and 'went out'." Dr. Rees concludes by saying, "You and I are not to be dispensers of Caesar's gloom, but rather transmitters of Jesus' joy!"
The Lord's Supper reminds us of the price Christ paid to set us free.