Sometimes we call it "Communion," and sometimes "The Lord's Supper." Some churches celebrate it weekly, some monthly, quarterly, or yearly, but most agree that it was one thing that Jesus asked us to do. Unfortunately, for many of us it has become nothing but a ritual. Maybe a command. This morning, Rev. Singleton asked us to go a little deeper; to understand the meaning of this sacrament, and to make sure that our practice of it is not done casually, but with reverence.
She began with Mark's account of the "Last Supper," taken from Mark 14:12-16. She noted that the Lord's Supper requires preparation, and proceeded to give us specific things that we should do before taking part.
The first requirement is a physical preparation. As you read the passage in Mark, you will notice that Jesus had sent some disciples ahead to prepare the Passover meal for him and his twelve chosen disciples to share. This was to be their last meal together, and since it was also a holiday meal with specific requirements, it required specific things to be done. Some of the necessary items were wine, unleavened bread, and a roasted lamb. The Passover wine symbolizes the redemption or salvation of Israel from slavery in Egypt. The bread was unleavened, which means it had no yeast, and could not rise. This symbolizes humility. The lamb was in remembrance of the lambs that were sacrificed in Egypt on the night that the Angel of Death took the firstborn of all the Egyptians. The lamb's blood was painted onto the doorposts of the homes as a sign that the inhabitants were followers of God. So, this was also a sign of salvation: this time, from death.
Our communion table is prepared with bread or matzo and wine or grape juice. The bread and juice are to represent Jesus' body, which was broken, and his blood, which was spilled. We don't need a lamb, because Jesus sacrificed himself for our salvation from slavery to sin and from spiritual death.
The second requirement is a personal inspection. In verses 18-20, we find Jesus speaking to his disciples: While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.” They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?” “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me." Notice that each of the disciples started to question him. None of them wanted to be the one to betray him, but it seems that none of them were positive that they were exempt! In 1 Corinthians 11:28-29, Paul admonishes the Christians in the church of Corinth regarding their personal preparedness for taking the Lord's Supper: Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. This is not something to do lightly!
Rev. Singleton asked us to examine our repentance: Have you confessed your known sins? To examine our faith: Is it alive, genuinely energetic and trusting in God? To examine our gratitude: Are you grateful for all that God has given you? And to examine our love: Do you have love for God, and love for men? If malice or hatred exists between you and another human being, you should first go and be reconciled to that person. Then you will be in the proper spirit to take Communion.
The last requirement is a Heavenly explanation. This meal was based on the Passover meal, but is something new. We no longer need lamb's blood to save us. We were saved once and for all by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. We don't need to remember an escape from physical slavery in Egypt. We rejoice in our escape from slavery to sin! On the other hand, we can't get away with preparing a simple table. We have the much harder job of preparing our hearts. By ourselves, this is difficult to impossible. We are left like the disciples: "Surely you don't mean me?" The good news (for this is what the word "gospel" means) is that we don't have to do it by ourselves. Jesus has bought our salvation for us, and we, through faith in him, can have pure hearts before God:
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.