How to celebrate

Sermon 24th November 2019, St Andrew’s Church Uxbridge
Christ the King and Admission to first Communion
Colossians 1.11-20 & Luke 23.33-43

It is very good to be here with you this morning, especially as we are here to celebrate the first Communion of a number of young people of this parish, and their families. It was particularly nice to be welcomed by a lovely breakfast, and it fits rather well with what today’s service is all about!

I’m sure that in your preparation sessions you have been thinking already a lot about Holy Communion and what it means, so I may be repeating some of what you already know. So as you are the experts in a way, I’d like to start with a question to you specifically, but it is also a question to all of us: what do you do when you celebrate something? What do you do when there is a birthday, or Christmas or Easter, or maybe a wedding or a Baptism?

last-supper

I would like to suggest that there are four key elements to each celebration: gifts or presents, food – like this morning –, stories and other people. These four aspects are not a bad way to understand Holy Communion too, so let’s look at them briefly.

First of all, gifts. It’s hard to imagine a birthday party or Christmas without giving or receiving any presents. Of course, the celebration is not about these presents, but they are a way to express that we care enough about a person that we would like to give them something. A good present is something that expresses that we care about someone and so have given it some thought and time to them as we bought the gift. That means that it is not necessarily expensive, but it’s power lies in the fact that it has been given thought and attention. It says something about the giver and the person who receives it.

At the end of the service today, you will also receive a gift: you will all receive a cross. A cross is the symbol of Christianity and a reminder that God loves us so much that he gave us his Son, Jesus, the greatest gift we could ever imagine. So, in a way, as Christians we know how much God loves us, because we know that Jesus came to be with us and died for us. That is what the cross helps us to remember.

The cross is not the only symbol that helps us remember God’s love for us. There is also the bread and the wine, which we are sharing today. On the evening of the Last Supper, Jesus had a meal with his friends. It was not unusual for Jesus to eat with both friends and strangers, and throughout the Bible it shows that God wanted to share with everyone. Maybe the most famous story about sharing food is the story of the loaves and the fishes. A huge crowd had gathered to listen to Jesus, and it looked like it would be impossible to feed all of them. Yet, when the disciples started to share the fishes and the loaves, to their surprise, there was not only enough for everyone, but even more than that.

We may recognise that in our own lives too: often we feel we don’t even have enough for ourselves, but as soon as we start sharing, we realise that there is more than enough for everyone. Sharing is not just about giving others something of what we have, but it is also giving something of who we are. And the way we can do this is by telling stories. Most of us love telling and hearing stories. Often when we come together, we will say to each other “Do you remember that time when we were doing this or that?” And we share the things that we did or have in common. Most of the times these stories are happy memories, but there are also times when sharing more difficult things can really help.

I’m sure that I’m not the only one who is sometimes angry, sad or frustrated by what is happening to me. We can find ourselves with our head in our hands, worrying how we can solve the situation. We may have friends who try to be helpful by suggestion a myriad of solutions what we should do.

However, the real difference is made by the person who comes to sit beside you, doesn’t say much, but knows how you feel, because they have felt the same. Maybe, after a while, they share their story, and although the situation isn’t resolved, you know that you are not alone. That too is what we remember when we celebrate Holy Communions, when we remember the Last Supper. We are not alone, because God does not only know us, but he has also been us, in the person of Jesus.

Maybe the most hurtful thing that can happen to us is if we are or feel betrayed by a friend. And this is precisely what happened to Jesus himself. It was not a stranger who gave him over to the authorities, but one of his closest friends. God knows what it feels like to be us. So also, we see that we need not just ourselves, not just God, but also other people to be the person we are meant to be. We need other people to share gifts, food and stories. And through those others, we can learn to know God, and to know ourselves a little more as God knows us.

Those others can be our friends, our family and we find those others with whom we share here, in the Church. Just like our family, we don’t choose the people with whom we share here in Church. We may not agree with everyone, nor may we choose everyone to be our friends.

Yet, we are here to share something that is bigger our differences, we are here because we all share our belonging to Christ, we share in one bread. So the four key elements as we celebrate Holy Communion today are gifts, food, stories and others. However, if four is too many for a Sunday morning, the most important thing to remember is that this is a celebration to which we are all welcome; to which we are all invited.

God’s invitation to share the bread and the wine, is an invitation open to any of us at all times. And I really hope you will remember that: you are always welcome, here at St Andrew’s, or anywhere else you may find yourself. Whether you’re happy or sad, young or old, everyone is invited  to God’s table. That welcome, that invitation, is what we celebrate today and every time we eat the bread and drink the wine, to remember Him who died for us and rose again.

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