Reisterstown United Methodist Church

Worship As Sacrament

To listen to a recording of this message, [click here]:

Psalm 111 is all about remembering God’s goodness to us.  Unlike some Psalms (and other scriptures in the Hebrew Testament) that practically tell the entire story of the Exodus, this Psalm isn’t quite that specific.  It speaks of God’s works and deeds, mercy and compassion, food, covenant – sort of broad categories – and reminds us to be thankful.  It reminds us of the importance of giving thanks within the faith community – the place where we draw strength for growth and where we are always reminded of the works of the Lord – the community where we learn what it means to walk with God.

Psalm 111 is a Psalm of praise – a Psalm that draws us into worship.

Jesus was a genius.  Reared as a Jew on the Hebrew Testament, he knew the importance of memory to the community of faith, and he left us with several powerful rites – that’s R-I-T-E-S – that keep us focused on his gifts to us.  Rites that remind us to be thankful and draw us to worship.

Last week I said that worship is one of those rites – one of the means of grace – one of the powerful ways that we are drawn into a deeper relationship with God.

Sacrament is another, and of course sacrament takes place within the worshiping community.

Sacrament is a reminder from start to finish of how God has reached out to us again and again in compassion and in mercy, drawing us near when our tendency has been to wander off.  Sacrament tells us our story – reminds us who we are – grounds us in God’s grace.

Today we celebrate the Lord’s Supper.  Note how communion begins.  First, we are invited.  I’ll never forget that when I had just finished a special project on the communion hymns of the Wesleys, I got to sit in the sanctuary one Sunday and just participate in the service.  When the invitation was offered, a powerful feeling came over me.  I remember thinking, Wow!  This invitation is offered over and over and over again.  Every Communion Sunday we are invited.  Every time we are invited, it’s brand new – we get another chance to say we DO intend to live God’s way.  It’s about our intention and willingness – not God’s expectation of our perfection and sinlessness.  God knows better.  That morning, it was like someone wrote in giant letters, reminding me that no matter how often I mess up, I get another invitation.  No matter what, Jesus doesn’t take me off of the guest list for his table.  That day, communion had an unusually profound effect on me – and that’s saying something because I love, love, love Communion!

Then we confess our sins to God together – a corporate act, seeking forgiveness.  (I know we don’t do this every time we take communion.  It’s not always easy getting everything in!)  Today, really listen to The Great Thanksgiving.  Listen for how far back the Story goes – how much of the Salvation Story is contained in those few paragraphs.  Listen for how we remember Jesus.

Remember who was at the table at the first communion.  Judas got up and left to betray Jesus.  Peter was about to deny Jesus – not once but three times!  Remember who had been eating with Jesus during his ministry – imperfect people.  Sinners.  Those that the holy people looked down on and excluded from the circle of grace.

Jesus ate with them.  It is in the breaking of bread that Jesus can make us whole.

One last thing.  Communion is about thanksgiving – remembering and celebrating the wonders of God’s love.  It is really easy to only focus on the death of Jesus, but friends, if Jesus had only died, I seriously doubt that there would be a Christian church.  Yes, he died for us.  And then God raised him – as God can raise each of us – to new life.

So come.  Come and worship at the Table of the Lord.  Come – remember – and give deep, deep thanks.  No matter what, the love of God in Christ Jesus can make your life new!

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