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Communion and the Body of Christ

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 1 Corinthians 10:16-17


Dear Friends in Christ, Since August, I have been writing in my Thursday emails about all the different elements of our worship services (see the archive of Thursday Messages here). Our weekend services are called “Eucharist,” which means “thanksgiving,” in particular the “Great Thanksgiving” of Holy Communion. Gathered in praise of God, fed by scripture and preaching, offering ourselves to God in affirmation of the Creed and in the prayers, and reconciled to God and to each other by repentance and forgiveness, we bring ourselves before God for the Great Thanksgiving. We remember how God has acted to save us (see Anamnesis), especially in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. As Jesus taught us, we take bread and wine and offer them to God, remembering how Jesus said “This is my body which was given for you, do this in remembrance of me” and “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this in remembrance of me.” This remembrance is more than mere memory of past actions from long ago. We ask God to send his Holy Spirit upon these gifts “that they may be the Sacrament of the Body of Christ and his Blood of the new Covenant” (this invocation of the Holy Spirit’s work is called the Epiclesis). We believe that, in the Eucharist, Jesus is present with us more than the way that he is usually present with us. This is true not just in the consecrated bread and wine, but in the whole action of scripture, prayer, remembrance, bread, wine, the gathered community, and most especially God’s action in and through all these things that we offer to God in the sacrament. In and through this sacrament, we ask God “Unite us to your Son in his sacrifice, that we may be acceptable through him, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Prayer B) or that we may be “made one body with him [Jesus], that he may dwell in us, and we in him” (Rite I) or “let the grace of this Holy Communion make us one body, one spirit in Christ…” (Prayer C) or “grant that all who share this bread and cup may become one body, one spirit, a living sacrifice in Christ, to the prayer of your name” (Prayer D). This sacrament is called Holy Communion because it is a way of sharing sacred connection with Jesus, our living Lord. United with him in his death and resurrection, we are also united with each other. Communion is with Christ and with his church—everyone else who is united with Christ is united with us as well. So, we are made one body in Christ. The Eucharist—Holy Communion—therefore, is not meant to be a solitary, individual experience. Communion is meant to be a communal meal, a communal sacrament, a gift from our Lord to be united with him and with each other through him. Think about that. In sharing communion, you are united in Christ with others who kneel at the rail with you. You are united in Christ with Christians at other rails down the street, also celebrating the sacrament with that same Lord. You are united with Christians who kneel or stand at rails around the world, as part of the body of Christ. Indeed, when we receive communion together, we are united in Christ even with those who have gone before us, who rest in the presence of God and who with us await the resurrection from the dead. This is the communion of saints—on earth and in heaven. We sometimes speak of “the church militant” (those who still strive for our Lord in this life) and “the church triumphant” (those who have finished their service in the mortal life and who sing God’s praises in heaven), brought together in this joyful and sacred meal, united in communion in Christ. Come celebrate this gift of God for us. Come share in Holy Communion with Christ and his church. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 Yours in Christ, -Tom

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