Holy Communion: The Holy Reminder- Luke 22:7-27
Have you ever read the book or seen the movie “The Hunger Games?” It’s a riveting story about a dystopian society where every year a boy and a girl from each of the nation’s 12 districts are chosen to compete in the hunger games. Twenty-four children enter and only one survives. They are forced to fight to the death by the evil leaders at the Capitol who hold the games as a reminder to the districts of the consequences of rebellion and the need to fear the Capitol.
The main character is a teenager named Katniss Everdeen who’s younger sister is drafted for the hunger games but Katniss volunteers to enter in her place. Katniss is skilled with a bow and arrow and she and the boy from district 12 named Peeta survive the games and are the final two left. But instead of fighting each other to the death, they decide to eat poison berries so that the Capitol won’t have a winner. Suddenly the game master tells them to stop and declares them both winners. The first book ends with the Capitol embarrassed and with Katniss’ actions inspiring hope for the oppressed peoples of her world.
I don’t wanna give away too much, but in the books that follow Katniss becomes the poster child of the rebellion, but she learns that even the “good guys” are willing to kill indiscriminately to further their cause. The story shows how evil can corrupt both sides and how fear and mistrust can lead people to do the most immoral things. The story reflects the tragedy of the human condition, but also shows how goodness, courage, and most importantly love can transform even the darkest possible worlds.
The Hunger Games served as a reminder to the people of the Capitol’s power over them. In much the same way crucifixion was meant to instill fear and prevent rebellion in the real world in Jesus’ day. The Capitol’s evil games were a reminder to the people of their authority. Crucifixion was a reminder of Rome’s authority and the fierce cruelty that met anyone who questioned it.
In the scripture readings we heard this morning we learned about another reminder—a meal Jesus established the night before his death. A death by crucifixion. At the Last Supper Jesus instructed his disciples to celebrate a simple meal of bread and wine in memory of him. To remember his life and teachings, to remember his death and suffering, to remember that it is all because of love. Jesus said, “This is my body broken for you. This is my blood shed for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.” And so every time we eat this holy meal we remember Jesus’ body broken and blood shed. And we remember that he overcame the powers of evil and sin and darkness to free us, heal us, and grant us eternal life.
It’s because of all of these reminders that we call Communion a sacrament. In the Lutheran tradition there are two sacraments—Baptism and Communion—and there are three things that make something a sacrament. First, it needs to be something Jesus told us to do in scripture. So for Baptism we have passages where Jesus tells the disciples to baptize in his name. And for Communion we have passages like the ones we just read where Jesus instructs the disciples to celebrate this meal in remembrance of him. The second thing needed to be a sacrament is there needs to be a physical element involved. So for Baptism that’s water and for Communion that’s the bread and the wine. This reveals that the spiritual has become incarnate in the physical. The last requirement, Luther taught, is that a sacrament contains a promise of God’s grace, forgiveness, and love. Both Baptism and Communion contain these promises. Put simply, sacraments are physical reminders of God’s spiritual promises to us.
Another thing Luther emphasized about Holy Communion is Christ’s real presence in it. He argued with other reformers who said it was merely symbolic. And he disagreed with the Catholic Church which tried to explain philosophically how something that looked like bread or wine could actually be body and blood. Luther wasn’t interested in making sense of it or in taking the symbolism route, but wanted Christians to wrestle with the paradox and trust in Christ’s real presence not just in Communion but in all things.
So Communion reminds us that the divine is incarnate in the physical. It also reminds us that we are the Body of Christ too. The Body of Christ isn’t just Jesus of Nazareth’s human body, and it isn’t just the bread we eat in the sacrament of Holy Communion. The Body of Christ is also us, the church. We are Christ’s body now. Christ works through us. Christ becomes incarnate in the world through us. One way of looking at Holy Communion is “you are what you eat.” And so receiving this sacrament reminds us of our calling as Christians to be Christ in the world. To love and serve our neighbor, to care for the poor, fight for the oppressed, work for justice and peace in all the earth, and to strive for a world that reflects God’s goodness and compassion and manifests God’s will.
So Holy Communion reminds us of a lot of things. It reminds us that we are the Body of Christ and of our calling to be Christ in the world now. It reminds us of God’s presence in physical reality. It reminds us of Jesus’ suffering and death. And it reminds us of his Resurrection and our redemption. It reminds us of God’s promises of forgiveness, healing, life, and salvation. It reminds us of God’s love for us.
So when you receive Communion, I hope it sparks your memory. I hope it reminds you and grants you spiritual nourishment to sustain you in this life.
Not a reminder like the Hunger Games were a reminder to Katniss’s world of the power of evil. But rather a reminder of the goodness and love of God, who in Jesus Christ entered the brokenness of this world and overcame the power of evil, and freed us to live in right relationship with God.
In Holy Communion we are reminded of the greatest story ever told, the story of God’s love for us. The story of pure love crucified by hate, and of our Savior overcoming the consequences of sin with forgiveness and love. A story we retell every Sunday to remember the Good News of God’s great promises and to fill us with the power of God’s love here and now. The gift of Holy Communion reminds us of who we are, and whose we are, and what we are called to be.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.