Sermons from St
Revd Denise McDougall, Corpus Christi,
31st May, 2018
Last night I had a fabulous barbecue with family and friends and this evening’s celebration of the Eucharist is often compared with a family meal. A family meal is not only a chance to eat the food we need for physical sustenance, it also sustains the family as a family. It binds the members together; giving a sense of wholeness; it celebrates being family. Memories of special meals remain with us for a very long time if not forever, try if you can later on this evening to recall your best ever fiveThe Blessed Sacrament favourite meals. (it’s quite difficult to do!) Sharing food turns something ordinary into something extra ordinary.
And so today we give thanks for the Institution of Holy Communion, for the wonderful sacrament given to us in memory of Jesus’ passion. So, as with sharing a meal with friends and family, similarly when we receive bread and wine in the Eucharist we are present at a meal that sustains us spiritually, and something ordinary is changed into something extra ordinary. Coming together to share bread and wine gives us a sense of wholeness, communion as a community and our Eucharistic service is a celebration of that communion. And hopefully, as with the family meal, it is a celebration we look forward to and one that we anticipate eagerly. But seeing the mass as a cosy family meal only takes us takes us so far, we have to add a lot more to it, remembering that sharing a meal together is one of the most profound human experiences and goes back to the beginning of time.
Meals featured frequently throughout Jesus’ ministry ….. and after leaving the Mount of Olives on a journey which would eventually lead to Calvary and his death, Jesus took time to have that special final meal with his disciples, to show how much he loved and trusted them. Of course Jesus’ words alone always turned ordinary into extraordinary but it wasn’t until after his death and resurrection that the disciples began to understand the relevance of what taking the broken bread and drinking the cup actually meant. The sacrifice of Christ into which we are a part of by receiving Holy Communion brings about cleansing and forgiveness and Jesus came to give us a special food so that we may have fullness of life.
Earlier in John’s Gospel Jesus says, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never hunger, whoever believes in me will never thirst.’ Words helping us to understand that the bread Jesus was talking about was the nourishing bread of the word of God and Jesus wants to lead us deeper into their significance. Jesus is not just the word of God, sent to enlighten our hearts and minds but Jesus is the word made flesh. Through him, we are offered a very personal, intimate relationship that will lead us into the very life of God; and there we have every opportunity to share a mutual love, an indwelling of love between God and ourselves. Through God we will be nourished and nurtured and God will always be present to give us life but by receiving we must also pour out our lives for him.
And so it is in the words and actions of the institution of the Eucharist that we find our greatest inheritance as Christians. Christ’s gift of himself to us, enabling us to be transformed from ordinary to extra ordinary people. A gift so special which highlights Jesus’ belief in each one of us and how precious we are in his sight. The Eucharist offers the presence of the body of Christ but let’s admit it, as guests at that meal we can sometimes take things for granted. Unfortunately we are so accustomed to the words and actions that we tend to forget the price paid on the cross for each one of us.
If the Lectionary took us on to verse 60 I think we would all be in agreement with the disciples who openly acknowledged that this is difficult stuff but it is a mystery to engage with and we cannot expect to just be spectators. Tonight and on every other occasion that we come to receive the body and blood of Christ let us remind ourselves that we are receiving a meal which we participate in as a community where we strengthen each other by sharing our faith. Communion at the altar reveals and nourishes the friendship and the love that Jesus wants to live and deepen within us as a united family. His presence becomes our food and when we receive the bread, blessed, broken and given with the words, ‘This is the body of Christ’, we respond with Amen, expressing our commitment to make our lives conform and be transformed into the life of Christ.
The Eucharist heals and purifies so that we can share in the life of God. Our everyday lives are challenged by our Eucharistic celebrations and God’s presence in us should be obvious through how we engage and interact with others, his presence should be clearly visible in our behaviour. To receive communion but not love our neighbour as ourselves or not show concern for the marginalised, the disturbed and the needy in our community borders on hypocrisy.
This feast, which expresses God’s abiding love amongst us lends us the opportunity to renew our faith and live in a spirit of huge love and thanksgiving for the most extra ordinary of gifts.
We are chosen people, all blessed, all broken, in communion with each other, so may we as one body become the bread for others and help to turn what is ordinary into extra ordinary!
‘Jesus, to thee our voices we raise, in songs of love and heartfelt praise, sweet Sacrament Divine.’