Today we’re here to experience communion. But what is it really? What does it mean to you? In John 13:1 it says that “Before the feast of the Passover when Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” The love that Christ offered here was more than a factual love. It was something real and enduring, concrete and personal. It was so real that the disciples felt it and experienced it. Today I have asked the ministerial students from Southern who are the externs with this church to join me in sharing what has made communion and God's love real and personal to them. They are Luis Rodas, Ignacio Silverio and Sarah Bowers. They’re pastors in training, so I'd like to ask Luis to be first.
Luis-- I've often wondered about the significance of foot washing and I’ve realized that sometimes the experience that Jesus had in the upper room is so radically different from my experience of foot washing, because Jesus was there in the upper room and He was washing the feet of 12 men, 12 grown men, with feet as dirty as the roads they traveled on and there was Jesus washing the feet of Judas who would later betray Him. Washing the feet of Peter who would later deny Him. Washing the feet of all those disciples who would flee from Him. I realized that Jesus instituted this foot washing ceremony as a way to keep His church loving and united, because now when I do a foot washing, it's a way of saying, “My brother, I am no better than you. My sister, you are no better than me.” Though we differ in age, gender or education level, we are one in Christ. We are all redeemed sinners and I realized something. God was there washing the feet of the very man who would betray him. And you know, some of us, there are people out there with whom we have a grudge. With people whom we are angry with or we just don't get along with, and when it comes time to do the foot washing those are the people that we avoid. Those are the people that we kind of shun, but those are the very people that God is calling us to wash their feet. God is looking for a loving and united church, one that will reconcile with one another, and what better way to do so than with a foot washing. What better way to get so low, so humble, to follow Christ's example and we say though we have a grudge, though there's a dispute, I want to wash your feet.
Ignacio-- As I was studying the ancient traditions of Israel in Jesus’ time, I found an interesting part that when a man wanted to propose to his love he would actually take a glass of grape juice and he would hand it to her and if she accepted that glass of grape juice and drank it that meant that she accepted the proposal and then she would go and prepare herself and wait for the bridegroom. So now, looking at communion, we see that when Jesus is there in the upper room He takes the same grape juice and He looks at His disciples and He tells them, “This is My blood. Take and drink from it.” Now to the disciples mind, for them, it's the same ceremony that a husband would offer to his future bride. For us, whenever I take of that grape juice, I’m always reminded of that same ceremony. When I take it I always remember God is offering me, He's asking me if I'm willing to marry Him and every time I take it I remember, now that I have taken it, I have accepted God's proposal to come into my life and I want to go and get ready for His second coming.
Sarah-- The word ‘love’, according to the Encarta dictionary, means to have tender affection for or to strongly desire somebody or it means to have a great like for something. This is the way I once viewed love. Love to me was an emotion or feeling of ecstasy. Whenever I told someone I loved them it was because I was very happy with them or I was enjoying their company. It was a casual term that I threw around loosely without much pre-thought. But communion changed my idea of love. I can't tell you exactly when it happened or how old I was when it happened but I know that it was during the communion service that I had a profound realization. I realized that God loves me and not just that but I realized what God's love was really like, and God's love is so much deeper, so much more than our love. I remember sitting in the sanctuary just after foot washing as I was waiting for the service to continue, and to fill my time I decided to confess my sins to God and ask Him to help prepare me for the rest of the service. In the midst of doing that I began to realize what a sick person I was. There were so many things in my life that needed to change in order for me to stand before God guilt free and then I truly believe that the Holy Spirit brought to my mind the fact that Christ paid the price for my sins so that I could stand guilt free in front of God. You see, God loved me to such a degree that He sent His only son to die for me. John 3:16. And “God demonstrated his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. You see, Jesus died the death I deserve, Jesus died the death you deserve, so that we can live the life that He deserved. These thoughts hit me like a ton of bricks and tears flowed down my cheeks as I discovered the most convincing reason to be a Christian. Jesus died even for those people who were killing Him and Jesus died for me knowing that I would reject Him again and again. Communion to me is a reminder of Christ’s love and an opportunity to accept that love and choose to love Him back knowing that He first loved me.
Thank you Luis, Ignacio and Sarah.
What is the most meaningful aspect of Communion to you? What makes it personal to you? Perhaps it's a scripture that is very meaningful or maybe it's a memory.
For me it's a memory. It's a favorite memory of mine from when I was 17 years old. A new Seventh-day Adventist Christian. I had never before experienced communion, let alone foot washing in the Seventh-day Adventist church, and my brother, who was an Adventist already before I was, called me to let me know that the next Sabbath would be my first time to experience communion, so to prepare myself I decided that I would read about Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. I opened my trusty paperback version of The Desire of Ages and I read the words that Jesus had laid aside His royal crown and kingly robes and had taken the form of a servant and that one of the last acts of His life on Earth was to gird Himself as a servant and perform a servant's part. As I was reading those words it was like a visual image that flashed into my mind, I believe through the power of the Holy Spirit. I can remember sitting on the sofa there in my home when I sensed that indeed, in Spirit, Jesus was there and that He would do the same for me. That He would bow down in front of me, take the water, wash my feet and dry them with His towel. As I realized that, the tears came to my eyes and I felt humbled and loved.
Have you ever felt that way? I'd like to suggest that as we experience the ordinance of Christ's humility today, that as we wash each other's feet, maybe we would do well to silently picture in our minds Christ there in the form of whoever is washing our feet or if we’re washing someone's feet, that we would think of Jesus, through us, washing that person's feet.
Hymn of Praise: #334, Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing Scripture: John 6:48-51 Hymn of Response: #337, Redeemed!
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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 4/8/10