Bound Together – Easter 4/ Communion
May 3, 2020
Rev. Fritz Nelson
Text: Ephesians 2:2-22
In a little while I’m going to invite you to take bread, which you found around your house, and some juice or wine, which you also found around your house, and celebrate the Lord’s supper with me. Some of us will be celebrating together during the zoom watch party. Others will be celebrating in their own space and time.
I have to admit I’ve been reluctant to do this virtual communion thing. Shortly after the pandemic started I heard colleagues testifying how powerful it was and I shook my head. It seemed wrong. Then the stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church sent an official declaration allowing us to do home communion and I shook my head. It seemed wrong.
Communion, after all, is about community. In the prayers before communion we pray for unity – that we may be one with all who share this feast, in unity with all who share in the feast. If I do communion in a home or a hospital room an elder or deacon is supposed to be present, representing the community of the congregation. We come from east and west, north and south to sit at table in the Kingdom of God – we don’t scatter to our own tables and celebrate in isolation.
As I dug in my heels, I continued to hear testimony from fellow pastors of the power of communion at this time of forced separation. I heard calls from our elders for communion and from church members not in leadership. Maybe, I began to realize, my definition of community was too narrow. Maybe I was too focused on walls and pews, fancy dishes and traditional ritual. The Ephesians were among the first truly multi-cultural Christian congregations. They literally were Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female. They were made one, the Apostle Paul tells them, through Christ. Eating from the same batch of Scottish inspired short bread didn’t make them one. Neither did having an assigned seat in a specific building or having official church apparel in their drawer.
We, who would be strangers and aliens to each other, are brought together by Christ. Christ is our peace. In Christ the dividing walls of our differences collapse. We become citizens of the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In Christ the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.
Our spiritual unity precedes our physical unity and it outlasts our physical unity. When we pray for each other, our spiritual unity draws us close despite physical separation. When we feel the continued presence of those saints who have gone before us, we experience our spiritual unity manifesting itself. When we continue to build up the church for those who have yet to come, we understand ourselves to be united even with those we do not yet know.
So we take bread and bless is. Maybe your bread is a cracker, or a roll leftover from dinner, or maybe you decided to whip up a batch of Presbyterian shortcake. It doesn’t matter. Through the Spirit, as you eat of the bread, it will become the body of Christ, and through Christ we become one with each other. Maybe you did pull out the wine, or used cranberry juice, or orange juice, or even water. It doesn’t matter. Through the Spirit, as you drink of the cup, it will become the blood of Christ, and through Christ we become one with each other.
In ordinary times we may come from east and west, north and south to sit together at the table of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To be together brings us joy. To hear the prayers together, to sing the hymns together, to say the responses together, to partake of the ritual together, to eat and drink together makes tangible the community called into being by the Holy Spirit.
In extraordinary times the Spirit comes to us, moving east and west, north and south, bringing with her the grace and bounty of the divine. The Spirit binds us together in holy presence. Thus bound, wherever we are, we are the body of Christ. Thus bound we become God’s holy temple.