It is always a special time at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church when we share together in bread and wine. Holy Communion is a time dedicated to reflecting on and remembering the significance of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. It is a time to seek for the Holy Spirit to fill our lives. That means examining our hearts, turning away from sin, and turning towards Christ.
In his letters Paul often writes about the sacrament. Of all people, Paul (formerly Saul), knew what it was to have a life that was once far from God. He knew what it was to be changed by God's amazing grace, through an encounter with the living Lord Jesus Christ. A one time oppressor of the faith, he became a tireless ambassador for the love of Jesus.
As a church we continue to travel through “The Story.” Last week we reflected on the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The sermon for the day, “New Beginnings” can be found here.
Chapter 29, titled “Paul's mission” offers us many of the teachings of Paul that form the bedrock of Christian theology. As this Sunday we gather to celebrate holy communion, it is worth reflecting on some of the things Paul tells us we should do, as we come to the table.
First, we should take a moment and look in the rear-view mirror. To remember that we, like Paul, are dead in our sins and totally dependent on Jesus Christ and His death on the cross for our salvation. Romans 5:8 tells us, “But God demonstrates God's own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Secondly, we need to look within. “Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup.” (1 Corinthians 11:28.) God wants us to acknowledge our sins and seek forgiveness and renewal. When we look within, the question we ask should not be; “Do I deserve to partake in communion?” No one is without sin and worthy of communion. Rather we should ask, “What is the condition of my heart? Is Jesus the center of my life, faith and hope?”
Thirdly, we need to look ahead. 1 Corinthians 11:26 “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death... until He comes.” The story of faith neither began, nor will end with us. There will come a time when Jesus is enthroned as Lord and all things find their rightful place. Only God can say when that time will be, but we live in the joyful hope that God's Kingdom is always drawing nearer.
Finally, we need to look up. Without a doubt the words of Psalm 121 were familiar to Paul: “I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip, He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you, the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm, He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”
It was Paul's mission to declare that everything in our world can change when Jesus Christ impacts our life. One of the unique places that we can experience the presence of the life giving Holy Spirit is when we gather with others around a table laid with bread and wine. What a privilege it is that our Lord should invite us to feast with Him! May we never take such an opportunity for granted, but treat our communion celebration as both a delight and a duty.
Wherever this coming week may find you, I hope you will find occasions for nurturing the life of your soul, be it with bread and wine, or simply by taking some Sabbath time to reflect on what is really important for our lives.
And of course, if you are in the area, you would be most welcome to join us in worship. We offer an open table, for we do not believe there is anybody Jesus would not invite to His banquet, other than those who would exclude themselves.
For some music... the Sidewalk Prophets sing “Come to the Table.” - Come to the table, Come join the sinners, You have been redeemed, Take your place beside the Savior, Sit down and be set free.
Rev Adrian Pratt B.D.