Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Isaiah 55:1-2
This passage from Isaiah, always makes me think about Communion, especially the Wesleyan concept of an open communion table. Here is food that satisfies the longing of our hearts for Christ and for community. Here is the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation offered without money and without price.
Because many United Methodist churches only offer Communion once a month, one would be wrong to assume that the sacrament is not important to our faith journey. John Wesley believed Communion to be “literally indispensable in the Christian life.” During his lifetime he took Communion on the average of once every four to five days.
Although he understood the primary value to be for believers, he felt that it could actually be a converting event. The effectiveness of Communion depends upon God’s grace not upon us. This is why Methodists have always had an open Communion table.
For me, Communion is the mystery of our faith. It is a mystical experience that stands outside time and space. It is a “thin place” where the veil between heaven and earth becomes transparent. It is a time to give thanks to God for all of God’s acts of love including the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Through this celebration we remember that the Body of Christ is made up of many members from many times and many places. We celebrate and give thanks for the saints who came before us and we make room for those that will come after us.
We remember that we are part of the greater church of Jesus Christ. We acknowledge all those who call Christ Lord as brother and sister, regardless of culture, physical and mental abilities, race, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, or economic oportunities.
Our communion celebration reminds us that someday we will be united with Christ and his saints at a heavenly feast. There will be plenty of food. No one will go away hungry. We will eat, sing, and enjoy being in communion with each other and with Christ. Our act of worship today is a practice for that feast to come. We come empty and leave full. We come broken and leave whole. We come full of guilt and regret and leave forgiven and healed. We come worn out and leave re-energized for the struggles to come. We come in silence but we leave shouting for joy,
In Communion we re-member Christ’s last days. We bring the past into the present, so we feel his sorrow at saying good bye to his friends, knowing that they will fall asleep and desert him when he needs them the most. We feel the horror and pain of the crucifixion. We feel the indescribable joy of the resurrection.
And more than remember, we participate. We acknowledge the times when we too, have fallen asleep or deserted Christ. When we have done things that we know to be against his teachings or as happens more often, those times when we have simply ignored his teachings because they are too hard and we sought the easier path. We bring our own pain and suffering to Jesus’ cross and bury them in his love. And then we experience the joy of resurrection, the excitement of new life, and the hope of a second chance.
We don’t fully understand how all this happens. It defies common sense. After all it is only bread and grape juice. But somehow it happens. We don’t try to explain it. We simply rejoice and lose our selves in the experience and are changed and charged to go and do likewise. Leaving the table we go out to feed others as Christ fed us that they may also know the joy and peace of forgiveness of new life.