Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Awe and Joy of Holy Communion

I am wondering how many of you remember your first communion.
Raise your hands.
What do you remember most about that day?
What I remember most about mine was that sense of awe in the face of receiving communion.
As a kid it seemed like something that only adults got, and something I wanted.
I am not sure I can say why, but I remember feeling really happy to be receiving the body and blood for the first time.
I wish I could tell you that every time I receive communion I still feel that sense of awe and joy.
Truth is that sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t.
Today will be one of those days when I again feel that sense of awe and joy.
Seeing Cheyene, Corey, Emily, Logan, and Charlie receive their first communion brings back that awe, that joy of the first time receiving the body and blood.
I hope for all of us gathered together this morning that seeing these young people receive their first communion will bring you back to the first time you received.
It will rekindle in you the joy of knowing God’s love and forgiveness.

This morning we hear about the Prophet Isaiah’s call.
It starts with a moment of awe.
Isaiah while in the temple sees the symbols of God all around him, and is overcome with the sense of awe at them.
Isaiah is able to see behind the symbols and they come alive.
Isaiah sees the scene of heavenly worship.
Of God sitting on a throne, God’s robe flowing, angels worshiping the one true God.
When we worship we are always surrounded by the symbols of God, and in worship God comes alive for us.
They point us to God’s redeeming work of creating, loving, and sustaining us.

Communion is just bread and wine that are really ordinary objects.
But when they are combined with the word of God they come alive for us.
When they are mixed with words that speak of forgiveness, love, and inclusion they become so much more than that.
They become a holy awe inspiring glimpse into how God works in our lives.
They point beyond the mystery to something more tangible.
Communion is more than merely some ritual we perform.
It is the active presence of God to transform our lives.
It is real for us.
It gives us love, forgiveness, acceptance, and strength.

We all need these things in our lives.
Without it how do we accomplish the tasks of our lives?
How do we show others God’s love?
We can only do it because God is alive in the world and in us.

Isaiah knew that he was not worthy to speak God’s word, but when offered forgiveness he is able and willing to be sent.
And it is only God that can offer the forgiveness needed to carry on and do the task.
It is only through the power of God that Isaiah can handle the difficult task that he has been given, because Isaiah’s task is very difficult.
He is going to have to say some very unpopular things to very powerful people.
He is going to have to tell kings and priests that their ways are not God’s ways.
He is going to have to tell God’s people that they have forgotten God.
They have forgotten the beauty and awe of when they first experienced God’s love and grace.
They have turned away and cannot be reasoned with.

I guess what I hope for today for these 5 young people is that they can remember the awe and wonder of this day so that every time they come to Jesus’ special meal they might see beyond the symbol to see the ways that God is alive for them.
Today is not merely a nice moment in our worship, but it is essential for understanding who and what God is for us.
Worship gives us faith to see God at work in and through our lives.
It gives us courage to meet difficult times ahead.
Worship injects us with faith.

Faith gives us a vision of the world that is not tied to the confines of this world.
This is what Jesus is talking about with Nicodemus in this morning’s Gospel.
To be “born from above” means to be able see past the troubles we face in the world.
It is great to be able to see past our present situations to the greater purpose for our lives.
Most days I wonder what we would do without it.
How would we go about living if this was all there was?
How could we have hope in this world if all we knew was this world?
How could we face the difficult challenges we have?
Only with a view from above can we understand and put into perspective our lives.
This is what Jesus is trying to get Nicodemus to understand.
Yes, Nicodemus can see Jesus and see the miracles, but does he understand what the miracle point to.
Does Nicodemus see God active and alive in the words and ministry of Jesus?
The same is true for communion.
It is something tangible we can touch, smell, and taste, but do we understand the bigger reality that it points to.

For our first communion class we read a book together called, “A Place for You”.
It is a book that helps us to understand that Jesus’ special meal is here for all people.
It is here so that we can see beyond our sin, our troubles, our sickness, and our differences to the God who heals all things and brings all people together.
Here at God’s table is the place we experience the holy mystery that binds us together in God’s love.
Here is where God comes alive for us.
At the end of the book we see a picture of Jesus at the table surrounded by all the earth and stars, all people of every tribe and race, all creatures of the earth, and of course you and me.
This meal that we celebrate today is a foretaste of that great meal that is to come.
It points us to a greater reality then the one we can feel and touch.
It is awe inspiring to think about.
No wonder we are so awe struck when we first taste and experience it.

It is true that God is everywhere.
We experience God all the time outside of these four walls.
However, there are times in our lives when it is hard to see God at work.
There are times when not everything is going according to plan.
There are times when we get lost in the sin of the world, or our own pain.
In those times where can we find God?
How can we know that God is still alive and at work?
Jesus has told us that if we want to find him.
If we are lost he will be at the table with us.
Jesus tells us, “Do this in remembrance of me”.
If you want to remember Jesus and see Jesus come to his special meal and there he will be for you, there Jesus will be alive for you once again.
In the words that we read from our first communion book, “Whenever you share this bread and cup, I will be with you, feeding you, loving you, forgiving you.”

So this morning we celebrate with Cheyenne, Corey, Emily, Logan, and Charlie who are sharing God’s meal with us for the first time.
And we worship God who gave us this meal so that we know God is alive!
We worship with the angels, with all people throughout time and space, with all creatures of the earth, with the stars, moon and sun, and we give thanks this day because we are in awe of what God has done.

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