Each sermon is published in large print for use in preaching, and for easy reading by several people gathered around the computer monitor.
TRUE AND HOLY COMMUNION IS BEING ONE WITH GOD AND ONE WITH THE BODY OF CHRIST
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
1 OCTOBER 1989
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation Verse: (John 12:32)
“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”
The first Sunday in October is World Communion Sunday, and all over the world Christians are gathering together as one body, even though in separate places, to celebrate what it truly means to be a Christian.
What does it mean to be a Christian, and how does this day amplify this meaning?
As I titled today's sermon, True and Holy Communion Is Being One with God and One with The Body of Christ, the church universal.
Together, let's answer this question further as we continue to come before the Lord.
As we began our worship service this morning, we meditated upon the words of Jesus from John 12:32 –
"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself."
In saying this, Jesus was speaking of the death He was to suffer: that He would be lifted up upon a cross.
But at the same time He was also saying that because of His atoning death, because of the shedding of His blood, He would draw all humankind to Himself, or at least those who would respond to His call and receive His gift of salvation.
Thus, inspired by the words of this verse, George Kitchin and Michael Newbold accepted God's call and were inspired to write the hymn we just sang: Lift High the Cross.
But unfortunately, most people do not respond to the call to be drawn to Jesus Christ or, before His incarnation, to be drawn to God. Thus we hear God's lament through the prophet Hosea:
Scripture Reading: Hosea 11:1-4
1. When Israel was a youth I loved him,
And out of Egypt I called My son.
2. The more they called them,
The more they went from them;
They kept sacrificing to the Baals
And burning incense to idols.
3. Yet it is I who taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them in My arms;
But they did not know that I healed them.
4. I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love,
And I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws;
And I bent down and fed them.
Ever since God created man and woman, He has been calling to all people to come to Him and obey His words.
And when God created man and woman, He also gave them and all the animals a diet that reflected His heavenly will, note what we are told in Genesis 1:29-31.
Scripture Reading: Genesis 1:29-31
29 Then God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you;
30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food "; and it was so.
31 And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
This is a diet that that causes no human or animal to suffer or die, just as there is no pain or death in heaven.
This is the diet that Daniel and his friends ate, as we have been discussing in the past several weeks.
And when we turn away and sin against Him, He still continues to call so that we would repent and return.
It is also important to remember that such a calling often includes a concession or compromise to help lovingly lead them back into His heavenly will, which they had turned away from in their disobedience.
However, such a concession or compromise in never a reflection of God's heavenly will, it's only a way to try to reach through our humanly hardness of heart and sinful ways.
But all too often we continue to follow in our own ways – placing idols, including our lusts, or other things, or people before God.
The Lord reaches out to us in love to lead us away from our sinful condition.
He offers to feed us with a bread of life, living bread that will satisfy us forever and ever; but all too often His offer is rejected, and the heart of the Lord is grieved.
And when Jesus Himself came to proclaim this truth, many rejected what He was telling them, as we read in John 6:41-42 –
Scripture Reading: John 6:41-42
41. The Jews therefore were grumbling about Him, because He said, "I am the bread that came down out of heaven."
42. And they were saying, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, 'I have come down out of heaven'?"
Jesus is also comparing Himself with manna, the heavenly bread of life, which came down from heaven and contains no ingredients of death.
The church, as well as the world in general, has not changed very much over the years. Many still reject much of what they cannot physically see and hear and touch.
We say we believe in God and His promises, but when His promise is fulfilled and placed before us, we all too often seem to cease believing. We have no lasting faith that goes beyond the physical and into the spiritual realm.
The Lord hears all our grumblings and disbelief, but He continues to reach out and answer us.
Scripture Reading: John 6:43-46
43. Jesus answered and said to them, "Do not grumble among yourselves.
44. "No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.
45. "It is written in the prophets,
'And they shall all be taught of God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.
46. "Not that any man has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.
Yes, all of us are taught of God; but do we learn?
And those of us who do hear and learn, is it that we have been convicted in our heart and repented and come before the Lord Jesus, so that we might receive everlasting life, and that we truly desire to do all that He desires us to do?
I pray that it is.
But what about the others?
Why don't they respond?
Is it that they have hardened their hearts against the convicting words of the Lord, because they know their sins and the pain of the Lord's conviction is too much to bear, or is it that they don't want to give up their sins?
Or do you think that part of their rejection is because they see too much hypocrisy around them from so-called believers who say one thing and do another? Could this be why they want no part of the Jesus who is proclaimed?
We all have a responsibility to live the life that Jesus Christ laid out for us, and if we inadvertently sin, then we must also have the courage to say to those around us, “Please forgive me. I'm sorry. I'll do my very best not to do this again. Don't let what I have done turn you from the Lord, but continue to seek Him beyond my sin; for He is always faithful and true, even when I am not."
And if we turn back to Jesus with a repentant heart, we will hear Him calling to us.
Scripture Reading: John 6:47-51
47. "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.
48. "I am the bread of life.
49. "Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.
50. "This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.
51. "I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh."
Both the manna and the bread that Jesus is offering came down out of heaven.
All who ate of the manna were satisfied, but they soon became hungry again and needed more manna the next day, just as we also need physical food.
And like all the Israelites who ate the manna in the wilderness, we too will all grow old and die.
But the bread that Jesus offers goes way beyond our physical eating.
If we eat of what Jesus offers, we will live forever, even if our bodies grow
old and die.
Before us this morning, upon the table, are two kinds of bread and grape juice, both of which contain no products of suffering or death. They are contained in the same loaf and in the same cup, but we can only partake of one.
One is the physical, like the manna or any other food we may eat. The other is spiritual bread and juice that gives renewing of our strength unto everlasting life.
Which will you choose?
I pray it will be the spiritual food of the Lord.
When we partake and leave this place today, will we truly follow through and do what the Lord desires us to do?
Will we live that spiritual life while still here upon this earth, and proclaim the truth to the nations?
Hymn: We've a Story to Tell to the Nations
We've a story to tell, but are we prepared to tell it?
And if we tell it, will our life so reflect what we say that others will believe?
We cannot turn their heads to the right unless we live the truth, act mercifully, and promote peace, for the whole of God's creation.
It is the love of the Lord that will conquer evil and shatter the spear and the sword. It is not greater weapons.
In our acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, a gift of love from God, our strength is manifested.
But like everyone else, we become weary and need rest. And as we come forth before the Lord, as we come together as we are this day, the Holy Spirit will renew our strength, and we can once again go forth for the Lord and for ourselves.
Through the Apostles' Creed we reconfirm the fundamentals of all Christian faith.
Through our praise in song we lift our spirits.
And through the reading of the word we sharpen our minds to better understand how God wants us to live, and what we are to do.
The Apostles' Creed:
Scripture Reading: Matthew 28:18-20
18. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
19. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
20. teaching them to observe all that I command you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
The Lord is always with us, a fact that we all too often forget. He is there to get us through the tough times, and He rejoices with us when we rejoice; but most importantly, nothing is impossible for Him, for all authority in heaven and earth is His.
In Jesus Christ we can truly trust.
But trusting is not enough.
We must also "do".
We cannot "be" faithful and trust in the Lord unless we are also willing to "do" and observe all that He commands us, for in "doing" we show that we are truly faithful.
This is all part of being one with the Lord.
And if we are one with the Lord, we will also be compassionate.
We will feel the pain and suffering of others, all other, whether human or animal, and we will reach out to help them.
And, in order to feel the pain and suffering of others, we must be willing to feel what others feel; we must let our heart be broken.
Hymn: Let Your Heart Be Broken
None of us can do everything that is needed in the world.
But if none of us do anything, nothing will be done.
If there are a thousand things to do, and because we see a thousand things we become depressed and do nothing, then there are still a thousand things to do.
But if we are capable of doing only five or ten things, and do them, then there are five or ten fewer things to do; and in the process we have brought some joy and comfort to some who would not have had it.
If each of us resolves to do at least what realistically we can do, then collectively we will have accomplished much.
We, both individually and collectively as the church, are to be like Jesus and follow his example.
Scripture Reading: Matthew 9:35-38
35. And Jesus was going about all the cities and the villages, teaching in the synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.
36. And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.
37. Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few,
38. "Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest."
In this community there are many around us who are like sheep without shepherds.
Each of us who knows the Lord, who are born again, are as priests of the Lord; and through our own testimony of word and deed, we can be as shepherds to them and lead them to the Lord.
We can meet their needs right where they are.
We can lead them into a church, either this one or another one; it doesn't matter, as long as we teach and live the gospel message.
And for those who are beyond our immediate community, we can reach out and help those who are able to help them.
As we enter into our Communion service, let each of us, as the Lord leads us, offer up a shepherd's prayer for those in need and resolve in our hearts to do those things that are needed.
As we do this we truly commune with the Lord, as we recall what He did for us.