Cuthbert United Methodist Church
Wednesday, May 23, 2018

THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY COMMUNION

We all do it, but what is it really about?
Lots of meaning can be drawn from this gift of God.  That’s probably why there are several common names for the sacrament.  When we call it the “Lord’s Supper,” we are reminded that Jesus Christ is the host and commanded us to continue this celebration. (“Do this in remembrance of me.”)  “Holy Communion” highlights the communal aspect of the meal - that we are joined together in one body, as we share in the one bread and cup.  “Feast” emphasizes celebratory nature of the meal – a foretaste of the heavenly banquet table.   “Eucharist” (Greek, for thanksgiving) focuses on the sacramental and sacrificial (God’s self-giving) nature of the meal, for which all we can say is “thanks.”  At different times in your own spiritual journey, you will recognize that this sacrament is all of this, and more - an act of obedience, a remembrance, and a celebration.
Why do we celebrate the first Sunday of each month?
Holy Communion is appropriate at any worship service, as often as daily!  But in early Methodism, the ordained pastor rode a circuit of many churches, and often could only be at a given church once a month.  So, churches got in the habit of celebrating once a month when the elder was present.  
Who is welcome to receive at the table?
United Methodists practice an “open table,” which means anyone, regardless of age or creed  (as our ritual Invitation says, “Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him…”).  Our founder, John Wesley, believed that you could even come unbelieving, and find faith through the mystery and gift of the sacrament.  Another inspiring thought: our table actually stretches around the world and across all time!  (“And so, with your people on earth and all the company of heaven, we praise your name and join their unending hymn…”)
What’s up with the long prayer we say every time?
The Prayer of Great Thanksgiving is one of Christianity’s oldest practices.  It even has connections to Jewish table prayers.  Much of the prayer is the same across denominational lines, as an ecumenical effort to return to very early (3rd century) church records of communion liturgy brings us all back to our common roots.  Though some parts of the prayer may change by season or theme, certain things remain.    One important aspect is the fact that we ALL say certain parts of the prayer together, affirming that we are all active participants in the sacrament.  The prayer begins with praise of God, remembers our salvation through Jesus Christ (including the Biblical words of institution from 1 Cor. 23-29) and then invokes the work of the Holy Spirit; concluding with praise to the Trinity. 
There is SO MUCH that God is doing in Holy Communion.  Be sure to open your heart wide, to experience the fullness of the gift!