You know how some things simply cannot be adequately described with mere words? While a picture can speak a thousand words, some things we encounter in life that we come to know and trust in, cannot be depicted with an image or a video clip.
And so, we turn to symbols to capture some of what words and pictures cannot convey. Symbols speak to us in all languages and beyond language. Symbols can be visual -- like the red light which tells us to “stop”. Symbols can also be actions -- like exchanging rings at a wedding or covenanting service.
In our Christian tradition, sacred symbols -- symbols which speak of God and of God’s love and grace -- are called Sacraments. The Roman Catholic Church recognizes seven Sacraments. Our Protestant tradition recognizes two – the Sacrament of Baptism and the Sacrament of Communion.
Sacraments capture and proclaim countless layers of faith and meaning.
The Sacrament of Communion recalls and allows us to relive that meal Jesus shared with his companions. With him we give thanks for the bread and for the cup, for the nutrition of our most basic of foods and for the sustenance of God’s love which feeds our soul. Eucharist, a common term for Communion, is derived from the Greek word for thanksgiving, speaking of the depth of our gratitude for God’s sustaining grace.
The bread and the cup also speak powerfully to us of God’s presence in all of life. In times of celebration we come together to eat and to lift the cup in joy and hope. In times of sorrow and anguish, times when we feel crushed, ground into dust, we see the wheat and the grape crushed, yet made into something new that holds life. Jesus’ death, his crushing defeat, would have crushed humanity but for God’s love, which is stronger than anything else in all of creation, drawing him, and us, back into life, restoring to new wholeness his being, and ours.
In the Catholic tradition at the consecration of the bread and wine by the priest, the elements are known to mysteriously become the real body and blood of Jesus. In our Protestant tradition they remain symbols, but certainly no less sacred.
Many of us come quietly, respectfully and prayerfully to this Sacrament. Members are asked to be respectful of this spirit. Others come to the Sacrament with the exuberance of our lives, an exuberance that cannot be contained. May we also be respectful of this need to be demonstrative in our thanksgiving!