Sunday, October 04, 2009

World Communion Sunday

Hey there, I know its been a long time.

Here's a message I gave today, world communion Sunday. Enjoy?

Everyone loves standardized testing right? You go in the classroom and time seems to stand still before an endless ocean of bubbles to properly fill in. True story, in Cape Girardeau my sophomore year of high school we all had to take the military standardized test called the “ASVAB”. I asked one of the teachers if this would count towards any of our grades. When she responded “no’ I knew exactly what to do.

For the next 3 hours, I had a great time. I randomly filled in all the bubbles, sometimes even choosing to make little pictures with them. When I got my results back, I was proud to be in the lowest 1% of this great nation. I thought I was hilarious until I found out that is the test score the military will use to place me in the case of a draft. Yikes.

Anyway, back to the beginning of those dreaded tests for us. You know all that stuff you fill out: name, gender, age, ethnicity. These are all examples of categories we’ve made for people, things we’ve all agreed somehow matter, and are used as additional data in your score assessment. I started thinking about what other things we use to put people into categories. Mac/PC. Republican/Democrat, Stoner/Skater, Geek/Nerd. I’m told there are differences between a geek and a nerd. From what I understand, being a geek can be kind of cool? I don’t know, someone explain that to me later. Theres cheerleader/pom girl. Band kid/Orchestra kid. Honor roll student/ISS student. Most of these things are based on appearance or affiliation. Think of it this way, let me name a store at the mall; and what kind of person comes to mind: Hollister. Sears. Abercrombie. Hot Topic. Justice. Do you get an image in your head of “what kind of people” shop there?

So what these companies have done, is gotten us to associate value and social characteristics with their products. We think “these types of kids” shop at Hollister and “those types of kids” shop at Abercrombie. Did you know that Hollister was founded by Abercrombie & Fitch? Whichever one you associate with doesn’t matter to the execs, cause they’re getting paid both ways. See, we love to create all these categories for people. We even do it with our faith. Are you Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran? Or maybe you’re Free Methodist, Southern Baptist, USA Presbyterian, or Missouri Synod Lutheran? Or maybe you’re “non-denominational” which ironically, is an attempt to get away from categories but has only resulted in another category.

Not only do we have all these denominations, but we’ve got theological divisions too. We’ve got fundamentalists and revisionists. We’ve got evangelicals and emergents. When it comes to women’s role in the church we’ve got complimentarians and egalitarians. When it comes to predestination we can be Calvinist or Armenian. Some of this might be over some of ya’lls heads. But we do it right here to. When it comes to worship: are you a traditional person, or a contemporary person?

Well friends, today is world communion Sunday. Today, we remember that Jesus was not a Band kid or a Methodist or a traditional worship type person; and he certainly wasn’t a white American. Its good for us to be reminded of that. Today we realize that you don’t have to “be” anything to bow at the feet of Jesus. Today churches from all over the world will celebrate the meal he gave us to remember him by. Today we stand before God, and we let all of our stupid categories go. Because in Christ, there are no categories; check this out: Galatians 3: 27-28 “for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

One of the ways we remember that we’re all doing this thing together is through communion. Some have special rules, some do it with little cups, some do it with delicious Kings Hawaiian bread, but at its core- communion is communion. Even that word, communion- something we do together, something we as Christians have “in common” with Christians all over the world, down through the centuries. That to me is a beautiful thing; that communion has been celebrated by Jesus himself, that we celebrate it today, 2,000 years after this night we read about, to remember Jesus.

Now I know I talked about how there are no categories, and its still true. The day I become more of a Methodist than a Christian is the day somebody needs to dropkick me. However, one of the reasons I am a Methodist is because of our beliefs about communion. You don’t have to take a class or sign up beforehand or be a member of this church or have washed your hands a special way. We don’t have to have it in some special cup or use a special type of bread or juice. Methodists believe that all people are welcome because its God’s table, not ours.

There’s a lot of confusion about communion. Again, a lot of us get hung up on all the rules. I could say a whole lot about this subject, and there are entire classes devoted to communion if you go to seminary. Communion is an experience that we have together, that goes three ways. It goes backwards, by remembering what Christ did for us on the cross, as he put it- his blood being shed for many. It makes a difference now, as we recognize Christ’s continued presence with us in reality. It also looks forward, anticipating God’s work on Earth in the future, and in the age to come. All this happens through bread and cup; something we can physically participate in. In this sort of weird way, we believe that Christ makes himself known to us in a special way during communion. I can’t explain it. Some of you guys may just go up there and be glad the bread tastes good, and not feel especially tingly or emotional or feel anything really. What I would say to you, is try focusing on who Jesus was, is, and will be. There’s an old saying called “the mystery of Faith”: “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.” Think about that as you’re chewing this bread and juice.

Think about communion as a meal. How fitting that Jesus left us a meal to remember him by. Many would say it’s a shame we’ve turned communion into such a ritual, because in the early church it truly was a meal. Like, you would walk away full! They’d celebrate communion like we would celebrate a birthday or Thanksgiving. To me, that’s a beautiful picture. Not only because I love food, but I think about how much I love it when my whole family is gathered together for a meal. That feeling I have, that feeling I hope you get sometime in the next couple months, to me is a sneak preview of heaven. The pages of Revelation say at the end of times there is going to be a big family feast. Communion is a mini-version of that feast, until the day comes. Our church can be united with Churches all over the world, and throughout the millennium with the celebration of this meal.

2 comments:

Professor RJ Gumby said...

Good stuff as usual, Mr. Mustoe. Once in a while, I stand at the back of the celebration space during communion after I partake of the bread and the cup. If my mind is right, I sense a spirit in our presence - usually stronger than I feel it in worship. I see my brothers and sisters in Christ praying, smiling or singing, and the atmosphere seems spritually electric. I hope all who heard your message Sunday will be able to experience the sense of spirit - God's Holy Spirit - during the service.

And by the way, thanks for the term "rip and dip" for intinction. I have at least three pastors and two priests laugh at the term. Makes it seem like less of a rigid ceremony.

Nathaniel said...

Thanks Friend!