Our church has communion six times a year. Our denomination requires that communion be taken at least four times a year. The reason is that if we have communion only once or twice a year it will lose its meaning by becoming too foreign. Yet, if it is done too frequently, the meaning of communion can be lost in mindless habit. Therefore, it seems the best balance would be to have it four or six times a year.
As we celebrate World Communion Sunday today, it is my hope that we may refresh our understanding of this sacrament.
Imagine this: this evening you have taken the opportunity to invite and treat Jesus to dinner. As such, you will coordinate the meal preparation with the time of his arrival.
When Jesus arrives, I do not imagine anyone here would suggest to Jesus, “Let’s go to McDonalds and grab a burger.” It is also unlikely that you would take him to somewhere “ordinary.”
It is more likely that we try our best to make the nicest dinner plans; we will frantically clean and neatly arrange our homes; we would even go so far as to think about the most comfortable place for Jesus to sit. All of this would go into the preparation process of welcoming Jesus.
There are many places in the Bible that teaches about preparation. For example, in the Parable of the Ten Virgins, the five who wisely packed extra oil for their lamps in preparation for the arrival of the bridegroom meet him while the five of them who foolishly brought no extra oil lose out on the opportunity to meet him.
The Parable of the Wedding Banquet describes a situation in which all people are graciously invited to attend. Yet when one of the guest arrive, he was not dressed in attire appropriate for a wedding and thus kicked out. In this way, if we do not practice living a life of preparation, we will run into trouble; but keeping this in mind will allow us to realize how important and necessary it is to prepare.
Do you know what the motto of the Boy Scouts is? It is “Be Prepared.” The fact is we prepare for many events in our lives. We prepare for marriage, childbirth, education – our own and our children’s. We prepare for life after retirement, and even for our eventual deaths. That is why we write our last will and testament and pick out our burial plots in advance.
Sisters and brothers, as I am a pastor, what do you think it is that I spend most of my time preparing? Yes, of course I prepare sermons: sermons for daily morning meditation worship, sermons for Wednesday Midweek worship, sermons for Sunday worship, and so on and so forth. Perhaps you might not be familiar with how difficult it is to prepare a sermon? I often have nightmares that I am not ready to preach even though it is time for worship. I have been scared awake, on more than one or two occasions, in a cold sweat –thankful like you wouldn’t believe, that it was just a dream.
On top of that, there is so much time that I must spend in preparation of many other things that it can be overwhelming.
In any case, if Jesus were to come to your home, you would undoubtedly be thoroughly prepared. But take heart, you do not have to stress about all of this. Reason being, such an opportunity is not likely to occur. To put in another way, Jesus will not physically appear and have dinner at your house. Instead, Jesus invites us and prepares a meal for us – this is precisely the communion we want to experience today.
The Worship Committee prepared the bread and the cup, and laid out the white covers, but in reality, it is Jesus Christ who is hosting and treating us to this meal. The Lord has planned and is in charge of all of this! That is why there are a few things we should to prepare for the Lord’s Supper:
1. We have to prepare our hearts.
Since it is the Lord who has invited us and made the preparations, our part is to prepare our hearts. Many people stay up late on Saturday nights eating, drinking, binge watching K-dramas or shows on Netflix. This causes them to sleep late on Sunday morning which in turn results in them rushing to get to church on time. Arriving to church in this manner prevents the opportunity for worship preparation, which increases the likelihood that they will miss out on the blessings found in worship.
Church, let us imagine for a moment that we made time on Saturday night to read the Bible and spent time meditating and praying. In addition, we go to bed early, wake up early on Sunday morning, and after eating together, the whole family gets ready to go to church as one. After arriving at church, we spend time praying for God’s blessing over today’s worship and ask that through the worship that we ourselves might be blessed – do you think we would or would not be blessed? Of course we would!
It is especially important that we honor the worship time. Outside of exceptional circumstances, we should arrive at church 10 minutes prior to worship in order to ready our hearts and prepare for worship. We should not neglect the communal worship time we promised to God.
If our tardiness to worship were to result in actual starvation, I imagine that there would not be many people coming in late. If a concert or show refused to allow latecomers into the event, likely people would rush to get there early. Although we cannot see it with our eyes, since God is present and ready meet us at the agreed upon time – I implore us not to be late to worship!
In addition, we need special preparation for the Lord’s Supper. In today’s passage, verse 28 says, “Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” However, the time to examine yourself is not meant to be short. We must always consider if our lives are worthy. Indeed, we must continually examine our lives before God and figure out what we ought to fix in our hearts.
May this be a time for us to reflect on our lives and through Communion may we remember the Lord, repent, and unite with the Lord.
2. We must dress in our best and most precious outfits as we prepare
Earlier, I said that we have to prepare our hearts. But as much as God wants sincere hearts, God also examines the attitudes we take in going to meet God. To put it another way, the manner in which we dress is considered precious to God. When we go out to meet a person we hold in high esteem, we will not go out dressed in any old rags. Even if we do not have formal or fancy attire, we would at least put on our cleanest and neatest clothes.
For example, when we attend weddings or funerals we go dressed in formal attire or at least in our cleanest outfit. Why is that? The reason to dress like that is for the sake of respecting the ones getting married or the ones grieving the loss of their loved one.
Likewise, we who worship God must “dress cleanly” in a manner that demonstrates a meaningful attitude of respectful awe before God. We do not do this in order to gain attention from others nor do we do it to boast but rather, we do it show honor and devotion to the Almighty God who saved us.
While it is a given that God looks beyond our outward appearance to the core of our being, the way we dress is also an expression of the state of our hearts. That is why I hope you will come dressed in your best clothes for worship. For what occasion are you saving your best clothes?
[Speaking for his generation:] When we were young, our parents prepared clean currency for us to bring on Sundays as an offering to God. Bills that were torn were nicely taped and handed to us and bills that were wrinkled were first ironed before being passed on to us to present as an offering. When the church takes the collected offering and deposits it at the bank, money is money. It remains however, that the attitude of giving is different. This is how we demonstrate our best preparation for God.
Therefore, the preacher should do the best in preparation to preach and the choir should do the best in practicing their praises. And the congregation should do the best in preparing their hymns, prayers, and worship to offer to God.
The same is true of Communion. The presiding pastor should do the best in presiding over the Communion, and the congregation at the Communion should look within themselves and with their hearts lifted high partake in the bread and the cup.
People of God, Communion is when we remember the Lord’s body was torn, the Lord bled, and the Lord forgave us allowing us to renew our hearts in devotion to him and be united to him.
Today it is my hope that our hearts will be ready to participate in communion and its meaning found renewed. And I hope that communion will not just end with the conclusion of the service but that the experience and meaning of communion will continue and be cherished until we gather again at the table.
In England, hundreds of people are invited to Buckingham Palace every year to meet the Queen and have tea. The invitations are sent to those whom we might categorize as “special” and those whom we might categorize as “ordinary.”
Those invited do not actually have a chance to talk directly with the Queen. Although they merely view the Queen from a distance, they consider it a great honor to be invited to this event. Thus they remember their invitations, cherish their memories, and talk to others about it for the rest of their lives.
Church, it is not the Queen of England who has invited us but rather God, the King of Kings! How glorious is that? Is it not? Is it just me? And the thing is, we do not only look at the Lord from a distance but he personally gives us his body and blood in order for us to be united with him.
Sisters and brothers, how many times have you partaken in Communion? Dozens of times? Hundreds of times? What memories do you have of them? Don’t your memories disappear after the worship ends, before you get home? Have you partaken in Communion so frequently that it has lost its meaning?
Through today’s Communion, I humbly ask that you that you reaffirm the Lord’s grace and love. I hope that we will remember the Lord who suffered and died on the cross for us, and that we will decide to completely commit and entrust our lives to the Lord. Therefore may the meaning of Communion continually be revealed and appear in our daily lives.
People of God, please do not regard Communion as an event that merely occurs several times a year, but partake with joy in the meal to which our good Lord has invited us in order to unite with us. May we come to the table with prepared hearts and cherish the experience of this meal in order that we might bear witness to the Lord in our lives.