This is my sermon for October 22nd. This is the third week of our Reformation 500 series, focusing on Holy Communion. The lessons were 1Corinthians 11:18, 21-29 and Matthew 26.26-29. Above are a recording of my message and the Small Talk (Children's Message) from Emmanuel.
I got to spend yesterday morning talking to some really smart and fun kids about Holy Communion. They are going to receive this sacrament for the first time today. So we spent time talking about what this meal means. We talked about how this meal means so many things. It is:
The lesson from 1st Corinthians is about not sharing. The entire passage alludes to people totally misunderstanding what is shared in Holy Communion. The early house churches celebrated an agape meal, a love feast, on Sundays. Their worship services took place in the homes of the wealthiest, most powerful church members at the end of the workday. Remember, that in the early years of the church, Sunday was a workday; it wasn’t a day off.
The agape meal would be like a potluck, people sharing of what they had. But those who were well off could get to the house where they gathered early. They would goes ahead with your own supper. The well off, the powerful would start to eat and drink before everyone arrived. One goes hungry and another becomes drunk. What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?
The people didn’t share. The people didn’t care for one another. They shared a meal in name only. They took care of themselves, and shared nothing with others. It is no surprise that Paul takes them to task.
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves.
Paul condemns their selfishness. Paul condemns their lack of care and concern for others in their community.
Unfortunately, some take this last part of the lesson, and separate it from the story it comes from, and use it to exclude people from coming to the Lord’s Table. These verses, verses 27-29, are the ones that some Christian traditions will not share communion with those who belong to other traditions. They feel the other traditions have not properly discerned the Body, and eat and drink in an unworthy manner. So, for the protection of your own immortal soul, they will not share the meal with those outside of their tradition.
If you are here as a guest, and have another church that you call home, welcome and thanks for joining us today. If you want to partake in this meal, you are welcome to do so. If your church suggests or tells you not to receive this meal at other churches, we understand; but know that you are welcome.
From the beginning, the very nature of this meal is a gathering of unlikely people. At his last supper, when he broke the bread and shared the wine, he was surrounded by his twelve disciples. Yes, all twelve were there. Judas received the bread and wine. Peter received the bread and wine. They all received the bread and wine. Christ dined with, and Christ served the one who would betray him, and the one who would deny him, and the ten who ran and hid while he suffered and died. As he always did at any table, all are welcome.
While some who exclude others share the name of Luther in their tradition, Martin Luther believed there was only one discernment that needed to be made to be worthy to receive this Holy Meal.
In the Small Catechism, Luther writes about Who, then, receives this sacrament worthily? Fasting and bodily preparation are in fact a fine external discipline, but a person who has faith in these words, "given for you" and "shed for you for the forgiveness of sin," is really worthy and well prepared. However, a person who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, because the words "for you" require truly believing hearts.
What is needed when we examine ourselves as Paul writes is to ask if we believe that Christ’s body and blood are given for us?
I remember the first time that I ever helped to distribute Holy Communion. It was at my home church, St. John Lutheran back in Saginaw, Michigan. I had recently come back to the church, and had volunteered to help in the worship service. I was assigned to be a communion assistant for an upcoming service. That meant I would have a tray with pre-filled glasses of wine, and as people took a glass, I would tell them that this was, “The blood of Christ, shed for you.”
Somewhere about halfway through the tray, I realized what I was saying. This little bit of wine is the blood of the Son of God, shed when he went willingly to the Cross, to suffer so our sins would be forgiven, and to die so that he could be raised and death would be defeated. And he did all of that for you, for each person who took a cup. Which meant that he did that for me as well.
That’s when it hit me. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Word made Flesh, cares about me. He loves me, and gave his body and shed his blood for me. And I began to cry. Because it all became real. The rest of the people who came to receive Holy Communion that day at St. John were told by a blubbering big guy, “This is the blood of Christ, shed for you.”
What is required of us to be worthy to receive this unmerited gift of grace and love? We only have to believe. We just have to believe that The words "given for you" and "shed for you for the forgiveness of sin" show us that forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation are given to us in the sacrament through these words, because where there is forgiveness of sin, there is also life and salvation.
We are not worthy to receive any of this. But we are made worthy because Jesus welcomes everyone to His table, saints and sinners alike. Because at the table, all receive God’s grace.
While we believe that, do we live that?
At a conference I recently attended, a question the speaker had has stuck with me. The speaker ask this question of the assembled pastors as a challenge: Does your sermon say what the shared cup proclaims? That has made me reexamine my preaching, and reminds me to proclaim the radical and extreme love the Jesus Christ exhibited.
But I ask a form of that question as a challenge to all of you. Does your life say what the shared cup proclaims? Does your life reflect the radical hospitality shown at the Table?
At Christ’s table, all come as beggars, deserving nothing, but receiving everything. All are invited and welcomed at Christ’s table. All are treated as equals, beloved children of God, made in God’s image. It does not matter who they are: rich, poor; young, old; male, female, non-binary; gay, straight; powerful, homeless; every color; every nationality; every circumstance.
But would all be welcome at your table? Would all be treated as equals in your life? Do our lives proclaim the inclusiveness of the Sacrament of the Table? Would we share a table with those we share THE table? Do we believe that Jesus gave his body & blood for THEM? Do we believe we are equals at the table? Is the gift of grace given in the Eucharist given for all?
If your answer is no, I suggest you take time to examine yourself, and discern what the Body & Blood of Christ, given for you means in your life. Can you live as one forgiven to give of yourself? Can you live as one saved so you can serve?
At the table of Jesus Christ, His love, grace, mercy and forgiveness are shared for all. AMEN.
Pastor Brian's Page
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell has served at Our Savior's and Emmanuel since August 1, 2011, and began serving Nazareth on December 1, 2015.
Pastor Brian is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. He graduated from Alma College with a B.A. in Business Administration, and worked for the Saginaw Public Schools' Community Education Department for 17 years before answering the call to ministry. He graduated with a M. Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish is his first call.
He is the only child of Robert and Charlotte Campbell, both who have entered the Church Eternal.
He is accompanied in ministry by his faithful bulldogge Ananias, who regularly writes for our newsletter. His articles are archived here.
He is a fan of sports teams from his native Michigan, especially the Tigers and the Lions. But we tolerate him despite that.
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