Pastor's Pen - September 2016
Come to the Table to Remember and Celebrate
Sunday, October 2nd is commonly known as World-Wide Communion Sunday – a time around the world when Christ's disciples celebrate Communion in many ways and places.
On Sunday, October 2nd the Ridge Church of the Brethren church members, guests, and followers of Jesus will join the larger body of Christ in celebrating Communion. At 7:00 pm we will gather as a church family in our fellowship hall to participate in three Brethren ordinances: Footwashing, Love Feast and Communion.
These early Christian ordinances were established by Jesus the night before his crucifixion during the course of the Jewish Passover meal which he shared with his Twelve Disciples. In the Passover meal, what has been commonly called the Last Supper, both a symbolic meal and an actual supper was shared.
Jesus taught his disciples an example of service and cleansing in the footwashing.
In the first communion service, Jesus took on the role of his Disciples' servant, teaching them to follow his example as the Apostle John recorded in John 13:14-15:
So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.
Jesus taught his disciples to remember his sacrifice on their behalf.
Jesus, knowing that he was to become that which is symbolized by bread and wine, soon to sacrifice his very body and blood for the sins of his disciples and all humanity, instituted the blessing and giving of those sacred elements for his disciples both then and now. In that first footwashing, love feast and communion, Jesus wanted to help both his Disciples and followers thereafter, to remember the price of their salvation until he comes to join all of his followers in a future Great Supper of the Lamb.
Jesus commanded his followers to love one another without conditions.
We gather at the table, by our Lord's invitation and command. It is not the pastor's invitation or the church's place to determine who is worthy of eating. Jesus knew Judas would betray him but he did not remove him from the table of love and fellowship.
It is in that same spirit of humility and loving service that we participate, sharing a simple agape meal in a church-family setting, without judgment and showing of partiality.
Jesus taught his disciples to be inclusive and practice unconditional love.
The earliest Christian communion services probably resembled the typical church carry-in meal today with individuals bringing food for the Love Feast. The genius of the early practice was that the Love Feast cut across both racial and economic lines, the two chief lanes of segregation in the church of Jesus day. Often times, the first century church witnessed great disparities in personal income in the society at large, and thus, the communion table was a rare occasion for the church to practice equality.
The early Christians also remembered in their communion services not only the Last Supper, but the feeding of the 5000, an event in which all ate and were satisfied. Particularly, for the poor people of Jesus' day, who rarely ate meat or ate well, this sort of feasting was a clear foreshadowing of a coming Kingdom where such differences would no longer separate God's people.
Jesus used staple foods of his day, bread and wine, giving them a spiritual meaning.
It was not until centuries later, that the early Brethren read the scriptures for themselves seeking to restore the communion services as a commemoration of the actual Last Supper, because it was specifically commanded by Jesus to his Twelve Disciples. The elements in this restoration included an actual meal and the ordinance of sharing the bread and cup.
Jesus taught his followers to examine themselves before eating.
Sunday morning's sermon on October 2nd will focus on self-examination and give opportunity for those in attendance to do as the scriptures teach: to examine ourselves, and determine if they are worthy of sitting at the Lord's table, not so much to meet His approval, but rather to prepare themselves to receive and appreciate once again the gift of His presence and to feel a fresh in-dwelling of his Spirit.
Come, be cleansed and eat! It's our Lord's invitation!