11-12-17 Keep Communion

11-12-17 Communion Homily- “Keep Communion”  LMPC Sermon by Dr. J. Ben Sloan

     There are many reasons to not be in church today.   You have thought of some of these.
Maybe the bed is warm and the car has frost on the windshield.  Maybe someone has the flu and you don’t want to be around them.  Maybe someone will have a gun like in Sutherland Springs, Texas or In the Mother Emmanuel church in Charleston.  Maybe someone will say something rude.  Maybe the preacher will say something that you don’t like, or maybe you don’t like the preacher or someone else really rubs you the wrong way.  Maybe you have other things to do.  Maybe- no maybe it will be hard to get the kids ready.  Maybe you don’t “GET” anything out of church.  Maybe the music is not what you want.
I hear all that.  But I want you to hear this.  Coming to church is not just a matter of convenience.  It is and always will be a spiritual struggle having to do with your love for Jesus.
Jesus does not want you to let your fears keep you from being with His people.  We are to  value worship more than fear.  Let perfect love drive out your fear- fear of gathering, fear of sickness, fear of some crazy with a gun.  The early church was afraid of soldiers because they were illegal.  They had reason to be afraid but that didn’t keep them from getting together.  Let your love for Jesus draw you to this place.  If it is not drawing you- then seek to love Him more.  If you don’t love Jesus beinThey had a real love for Christ that we need to capture too.  He loves you.  Love Him back.
The worst thing you can do for yourself is to isolate yourself.  Christianity is a religion of love.  Do not fool yourself into thinking you can be a hermit and still do God’s will.  Do not think that God doesn’t care that you are gone so much that there is no room in your life for worship.
The world will teach us to be a consumer, and that we go to church like we go to a football game- to be entertained and have a cause.  If we don’t feel like going- there is no duty to go.  Church, if it were like that,  would be so shallow.
Jesus did something to keep us from being alone.  Communion is not something you do by yourself. He said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”  He didn’t say stay alone in remembrance of me.  There are some people who can’t be here.  We take communion to them.  But no one is called to purposefully isolate themselves out of fear or selfishness.  Let your love for Jesus overcome and overwhelm your reasons for staying isolated.  Jesus said do this- and no one can have communion by themselves- not real communion.
It is interesting how outsiders look at communion and worship.  Some see it like a rotary gathering where a speaker educates us on a certain interesting topic and people help others and there’s networking for work.  Worship is where we are inspired to go out and serve.  Worship is a service in itself.  We call it a “worship service” because we serve God our hearts- anew every week.  We recognize that He, the Lord of time, who gives us each day and gives us our ability has called us together on a certain day- the Lord’s Day- we call it.  He calls us together to serve Him.  He says where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them.
The early pagans accused Christians of being cannibals in worship.  We do say, after all- “This is my body broken for you- Take and eat of it.”  “This is my blood poured out for you- drink ye all of it.”  The early pagans heard this and thought this is the weirdest even evil thing.  It is not weird, nor is it magic, but it is important, and Christ is present there.
It is interesting that Matthew focuses almost more on Judas than it does on Jesus.  This is what sin does- it distracts us from what is important.  But this also teaches us that not everyone will believe properly or behave properly and take communion.  No one is really worthy.  But Jesus notes that one day we will eat and drink this meal with Him in heaven- where there will be no betrayal, no sin, no division.
Communion is very much like the Passover Meal.  It was a meal commemorating a salvation event.  In The Passover they were to eat remembering God saved them from the angel of death, from slavery, and from Egypt.  In Communion we recognize that Christ is our lamb who saves us from death, from slavery to sin, and leads us to freedom.  The bread is broken symbolizing the broken body of Christ for us.  The cup reminds us His blood is poured out for us.  There is vicarious suffering involved here- where we recognize Jesus suffers that we may not have to.  In the Texas shootings, Joanna Ward pushed one of her children to safety and used her body to block bullets to her other children- one of whom was saved.  Communion is a way that we remember that God came down to shield us from death- if we will run to Him in faith.
In some Christian traditions communion is called a “Eucharist” which means thanksgiving.  This is a way of giving thanks to God for His giving of Himself for us.
     Three times a month, Jermaine Washington and Michelle Stevens get together for what they call a “gratitude lunch.” With good reason! Washington donated a kidney to Stevens, whom he described as “just a friend.” They met at work where they used to have lunch together. One day Michelle wept as she spoke about waiting on a kidney donor list for 11 months. She was being sustained by kidney dialysis, but suffered chronic fatigue and blackouts and was plagued by joint pain. Because Washington couldn’t stand the thought of watching his friend die, he gave her one of his kidneys. When you’ve got something great to be thankful for, having a “gratitude lunch” is a great way to celebrate.   Jesus gave Himself- body and blood- an eternal sacrifice for He was the eternal God- for us.  Communion is a gratitude meal.