Friday, September 21, 2018

Dining With Jesus


Matthew 26:26-28
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body."
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."

When Danny and I get engaged in 2004, he is leading the praise and worship band at his United Methodist church's contemporary service in which I will later participate.  It requires a bit of getting used to for me, as I am coming from the Episcopal church, where the word "contemporary" is a huge no-no in light of the staid liturgical tradition.  Honestly, it doesn't take me too long to embrace, wholeheartedly, this energetic and uplifting way to worship God.  But there is one ritual I have a great deal of difficulty leaving behind:  the weekly observance of the Lord's Supper.

The Holy Eucharist, or Mass, as my Catholic brothers and sisters call it, is the focal point of the Episcopal/Anglican Sunday service.  The sermon takes a serious back seat; I once heard an Episcopal priest say, "If the minister preaches over seven minutes, he doesn't understand his congregation's 'fanny time.'"  Not so in the modern United Methodist church!  With Communion happening only once a month, the pastor is not only free to be long-winded, but is encouraged to be so.  Needless to say, my fanny needs significant tweaking in those first weeks of attending Kennesaw United Methodist!

After I get over the initial shock of the once-a-month celebration of the Lord's Supper, I realize, to my chagrin, how much I have taken this commemoration of Jesus' new covenant for granted.  Now, with only being able to partake in the bread and the cup every four weeks, I anticipate this sacrament with renewed joy and thankfulness.

So, when Pastor Graham asks me to assist him in serving Communion recently, I am beside myself with enthusiasm!  What could be better than sharing with and serving others the body and blood of Christ Jesus on such a personal level?

But I'm not prepared, in any way, shape or form, for the impact this this service has upon my very being.

As the individual members of the congregation approach to receive the bread from Pastor Graham and the cup from me, I meet their gazes and say to each one, "The blood of Christ, shed for you."  Their eyes give me an unprecedented glimpse into their souls.  Therein, I see the gamut of emotions:  unbridled joy, uncertainty of worthiness, worries concealed beneath lids closed, tears flowing with gratefulness.

I witness it all.  My own eyes threaten to spill over with the empathetic love and connection I experience with my fellow Christians, those seeking to follow Jesus just as I do.  Those whose experiences, conditions and challenges I can only guess at in that brief, yet unforgettable, moment of relationship.

A relationship that miraculously transcends time and place.  We are at the table of Jesus.  In His presence.  Dining with Him.

We are one in the Spirit, and one in the Lord.

As our nation goes through perhaps the most divisive time we have ever endured since the Civil War, may we all remember that we are God's children, and loved by Him beyond measure.  May we love each other as Jesus commanded, forgetting our differences and focusing on our similarities.

Jesus has set the table for all.  Will you accept His invitation to dine?

Amen!


29 comments:

  1. Good post, Martha. Thank you.

    Please clear some confusion in my mind. Do Episcopals/Anglicans and Methodists believe this is the body and blood of Christ in Communion? Or is it just symbolism in memory of the last supper?

    As you know, Catholics believe it is the body and blood of Christ. The belief is based not only on the last supper but on John Chapter 6 where Christ says many time unless we eat His flesh and drink His blood we will not have eternal life. There are now many Catholic priests who do not believe this and say openly it is just symbolism. The Church does nothing about it thus causing more confusion.

    God bless.

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    1. To my knowledge, Victor, the non-Catholic churches do not believe that the bread and cup are the actual body and blood of Christ, but I'm sure there are some who do in their hearts. All I know is, this celebration is deeply moving and always makes me feel as though Jesus were right there with us. This is a great question, though, and I'm glad you took the time to ask it here.
      Love and blessings!

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  2. Thank you for this moving post.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Kathy, and thanks for stopping by!
      Love and blessings!

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  3. Beautiful, Martha. Love how you set this up with your new contemporary church experience, then how you helped with communion.

    This is so powerful:

    "We are at the table of Jesus. In His presence. Dining with Him. We are one in the Spirit, and one in the Lord."

    Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I'm so glad this post spoke to your heart, Karen! Yes, switching from traditional to contemporary took some getting used to, but I love it now.
      Love and blessings!

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  4. A beautiful post, Martha Jane. I grew up Methodist and became Catholic when Joe and I decided to marry (he is a cradle Catholic). Catholics just don't understand that the protestant communion services are just as meaningful as those in the Catholic church. Catholics believe in transubstantiation but in my mind, we dine at the table with Christ when we receive communion, no matter what church we receive in. We know our hearts and so does Christ.

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    1. Terri my brother-in-law is a deacon in the RCC. He smiles and tells me "Methodists are just 'Catholic Lite' anyway."

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    2. Terri, I loved reading your take on communion as you are now a practicing Catholic. Victor asked about whether Protestants believe in transubstantiation, and I said we don't, but that the sacrament is no less important to us. I really do feel Jesus present with me whenever I take communion.
      Love and blessings!

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  5. Martha! Did you plagiarize my blog, "In Search of a Seven Minute Sermon???" LOL Great post BTW. I've been a Methodist all my life. Over the years, I've been pleased to discover several UMC pastors who actively look for reasons to have Communion more than once a month.

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    1. No, I didn't plagiarize - lol! Truly, though, that's how Episcopalians think for the most part: a short sermon is a great sermon. And I like that you've met Methodist pastors who entertain the idea of communion being held more than once a month. I can dream, can't I?
      Love and blessings!

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  6. Martha, this is a beautiful post. I love how you've captured the importance of partaking of the Lord's Supper in a reverent manner. It's so powerful to help serve the elements. We could all benefit from a better understanding of the significance of what we're doing. Much to my chagrin there's so much talking in the pews during this portion of the service (by adults!!)...I restrain myself from trying to quiet them.

    May we all partake of the elements in a worthy manner. Amen!

    Love and blessings!

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    1. No way, Kim! Talking??? By adults??? This is such a time of reverence, I so agree with you, that I can't believe some Christians don't take it seriously. Maybe God will one day convict their hearts to see this sacrament as just that: a sacrament!
      Love and blessings!

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  7. Oh, Thank you for sharing this experience with us. We have recently started going to a Methodist church after years in Baptist and other evangelical denominations, where we only had communion once a month or sometimes only quarterly! Now we actually do have it every Sunday, and I had the joy of helping serve one week, and felt that same joy and experience that you had...very humbling and awe-inspiring. I have loved having this weekly time of communion with the Lord and look forward to it as a time of celebration as well as a time of great introspection. It has been life changing for me, and much needed. At first I wondered why they did it every week, and now I love it. I guess every church is different and does what meets the needs of their particular congregation. Treasure those moments, as I see you already do. It is very special to spend that time with the Lord, no matter how often we do it.

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    1. Pamela, I am personally thrilled to know that your Methodist church offers communion every Sunday! Oh, yes, what a precious time of "celebration as well as a time of great introspection" as you say here. I'm elated that participating in this sacrament has been life changing for you, and something you look forward to with joy. Considering your and some of the comments I've received here today regarding communion, I'm feeling emboldened to approach the clergy in our church to see if they might consider a change in the future. Jesus' Last Supper, I believe, should be elevated to a place of honor in our worship.
      Love and blessings!

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  8. Martha, this is one of your very best devotionals. What a wonderful world it would be if we all took this advice to be united as one in Christ. Thank you.

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    1. Oh, Nells, you are too kind! I do so pray we would be united in Christ, even if it is only for those few moments in church. If we open ourselves to that experience, how can we not love one another? Am I perfect in this? Absolutely not! But God reminds us in times that unite us how much we truly have in common as His children.
      Love and blessings!

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  9. Beautiful post, Martha. And what an honor you had.

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    1. Thanks so much, Beckie! Yes, it was such an honor and a privilege, and experience I can't wait to do again.
      I will be reviewing your amazing book soon. Remember how I said I wanted to take my time and savor it? Wow! I enjoyed every word, but I couldn't put it down!!! You have an amazing talent, my friend! Here's the link for all you who would like to read Beckie's latest:
      https://www.amazon.com/Uninvited-Beauties-Ashes-Beckie-Lindsey/dp/1948888319/ref=sr_1_11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1537581119&sr=1-11&keywords=Uninvited
      Love and blessings!

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  10. I know how you feel. I consider it an honor and sacred ground to help/preside at communion. Our church does this weekly and at first I wasn't sure, thinking it would take away from its specialness BUT have learned to love it and a part of Dining with Jesus.

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    1. Yes, Jean, it is absolutely an honor and such a spiritual experience. I'm so glad you can partake weekly at your church!
      Love and blessings!

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  11. Thank you so much for shedding light on our present (UMC) church's practice of communion! I was raised in the Lutheran church, Tom a Roman Catholic. So - beside the issue of wine v. grape juice - this practice was at first a bit unsettling. I don't know that I still don't prefer the more solemn rituals -- but the congregation here is so very friendly and welcoming, I'm loathe to go elsewhere.

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    1. I hear you, Myra! Danny was raised in the Catholic church, too, and here we are, practicing Methodists. The grape juice thing was another surprise for me as we always had wine, but I've adjusted. I don't think Jesus cares about wafers/bread, wine/grape juice - He cares that we remember Him.
      Love and blessings!

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  12. Hear hear, Martha! I loved the invitation to the table offered by the pastor at the last church I attended. He said something like, "You are all welcome here. Whether this is your first visit or you are third generation, whether you have a personal relationship with Jesus or you are not sure who he is" and on like that, ending with a reassurance that all are welcome at God's table. I loved that!

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    1. I absolutely love how this pastor invited everyone to Jesus' table, Galen! Because in truth, all are welcome there. God loves us all and wants us to know Him better.
      Love and blessings!

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  13. The church tradition I grew up and now find myself serves communion every week. My real challenge-for myself and as a pastor-is to make sure it is not a ritual. We serve communion and then I come back up front (or one of the volunteer leaders) and lead the church in taking communion together. But I say and pray to make sure it is not rote

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    1. I'm so glad to hear that you serve communion every week, Bill, and that you do your best not to make this a rote routine. It really should be a fresh and uplifting experience each and every time.
      Love and blessings!

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