May I speak in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
You know we live in an amazing world. Who would have thought a little handheld machine, like the smart phones most of us have, would be so incredibly powerful? In my hand is not only a wireless phone, which is amazing enough when you think about it, but a powerful computer, a games console, a TV, an automated assistant, a navigation device, a powerful digital camera, a powerful digital camcorder, a library, a stereo, a radio, a newspaper, a pager, do you remember them? An organiser and even a health monitor. This list is incomplete and most amazing of all, none of us here, I suspect have the slightest clue how it manages to do any of that. Some of us may have a vague idea how the mobile network uses microwaves to transmit our calls to towers, but I suspect we have no idea how it can take sound from our voices, transmit them across huge distances almost instantly and play them out into our friend’s ear. It’s just amazing isn’t it and we take it for granted, which is astounding as these things didn’t really exist just 25 years ago, and certainly not as the amazing gadgets they are now. We know what these things can do, we take them for granted, but let’s face it the vast majority of us have no idea how any of it works.
Today we are celebrating the feast of Corpus Christi, a feast that celebrates the eucharist. Just like our phones, it seems to me, no one is really sure how it works in salvation, we are just aware that it does and the change in our hearts when we receive it is often palpable. In fact, when thinking about this sermon, I just went to the Wikipedia page that attempts to understand what is happening in the eucharist. Their short answer, looking at the differing views about what actually happens in the eucharist between different churches runs for 5000 words. I would happily cut it down for everyone by saying like my phone to ‘it’s a Holy mystery’ which is a vicars way of saying "I dunno". Frankly, that really isn’t important, the important consideration, a bit like our phones is to not get hung up on the the how but rather to know and to celebrate, why communion, why receiving the body and blood of Jesus is just so important to our faith.
You could, easily, write a whole book on this area, but I just want to highlight 3 considerations for us this morning.
The first is that in communion we are actively entering into covenant with God. Just in the same way that Noah, Abraham and all the rest in the Old Testament entered into covenant, we are entering into covenant too, the new covenant. We hear this perhaps most clearly in our short reading from 1 Corinthians. In the Old Testament, in the old covenant, it was signed in the blood of sacrifices, now it is signed in God’s own blood through His Son. By having communion, we are profoundly and explicitly entering into covenant with Jesus and as we heard in the gospel it is through the bread of life that we find true life. It is that fundamental.
Second in communion we are meeting with Jesus. Different churches or tribes argue as to whether Jesus is really bodily present or just spiritually present, personally I think to argue over such things is to miss the point because what we can largely agree on is that Jesus is here. I don’t think Jesus was joking when He said, this is my body and this is my blood. Exactly how that works is mystery, but that it works is very much fact. We must strive never to come to the eucharist not remembering exactly what we are doing, it is at this table that we find Jesus most easily, in the breaking of bread and the drinking of wine.
Lastly, it is in communion that we are joined to the rest of the body of Christ, not just in the church of England but across all Christian denominations, and some may argue, across all time. It is communion, the body and blood of Christ, that despite whatever differences and stupidity separate us as churches, we are together in the act of communion. Alongside sisters and brothers across the world we enter the body of Christ through this sacrament and we get to renew that every week.
One cannot overstate the importance of communion, so today as we give thanks for this central act of worship in our faith, let us strive to realise just how amazing it is, that every week we can celebrate the bountiful goodness of God made manifest in His Holy Eucharist. Amen