Over the past few months I have (inadvertedly) explored concepts that feed into the idea of communion and it's meaning. Over Easter, I explored God's love for us within the context of Jesus' death (click here to read that blog post) and in doing so, explored explicitly the physical and psychological impact of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. I also explored the importance of sharing a meal with someone (see here), and last week I flipped the perspective from God's love for us to how God encourages us to love him in the way a child loves (click here). As such, when I realised the sermon (and therefore my blog) was going to be related to communion, I had no idea what to write.
And so, like all great writers, I turned to the best source of wisdom in the world for some support - google. And in doing so, I stumbled onto an aspect of communion I rarely thought about - it's relationship to eternal life.
Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day - John 6:53- 54
Eternal life. It's pretty much what this gig is all about, right? We make decisions, take actions and have faith not only so we can have a relationship with God in the here and now, but so we get to be with him on into the eternal future (John 3:3). It's a really good reason to persevere when we are struggling in our circumstances.
Now, I am no theologian, and I find reading the Biblical book of Revelation absolutely terrifying (and mind boggling), so I am not going to delve into concepts such as what eternal life is going to look like, or the concept of a new heaven and new earth - there are way smarter people who you can turn to if you are interested (for example see HERE). Furthermore, the reality is no one can truly comprehend what the full picture of what our future holds - so I am not even going to try.
Instead, I want to talk about life. John 6:53 says that without eating the flesh of God and drinking his blood (ew!), we have no life in us. That's a big, brave and scary concept, and from one perspective - not true. After all, we are alive right? Christian or not, we breathe, we eat, drink and do stuff. We have a consciousness that separates us from animals and, as philosophers all around the world argue, a "soul". So, what the heck is Jesus talking about when he says that we have no life? It's because Jesus isn't referencing the physical world; he is talking about the spiritual realm - our spiritual life. As such, The eating of the bread and drinking of the wine is a symbolic act allowing us to connect with God and his personal Presence - His Holy Spirit (John 6:56).
Prior to Jesus' death, the Jew's communicated and worshipped God in the Temple or Tabernacle (Exodus 25:8-9). The Tabernacle was consecrated ground where God's presence could be found on the Earth (Exodus 29:42). We know that when Jesus died, the curtain of the temple was torn - God was no longer limited to this One place in the Earth (Matthew 27:51). Jesus, in acting sacrificially in our place, took all of our sin onto himself (2 Corinthians 5:21).
In doing so, we no longer needed a temple to worship or connect with God. Instead, our bodies became the temple which housed the presence of God - the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). When we become Christians, we gain the Holy Spirit - much like the first Christians did on Pentecost (Acts 2) - which blesses us and helps us.
So, in my mind, there is a link. Jesus' death gave us access to God who comes to us through the Holy Spirit. By partaking in communion, we are symbolically engaging in that process and remembering it. Communion reminds us of the eternal life that we have in God and his connection with us in the present moment by his Holy Spirit in us!
And linking into the idea of the Holy Spirit, over the next few weeks Rob is going to explore with us the nature and concept of the Holy Spirit and some ways for connecting with Him.
- Written by Ashleigh Crosilla.