Jesus said, “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. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” These words represent one of the central mysteries of our faith. That the bread and wine of the eucharist are indeed the very body and blood of Jesus, symbolic of his presence here and now, in this place. Changing you and I into his corporate body. Representatives of his love and compassion for this world. In the Eucharist we stand on the middle ground between the world we live in and the Kingdom for which we Hope.
The eucharist is many things, but, at its simplest it is a community meal. A physical and visible sign of the kingdom. The single plate and cup on the altar – symbolic of the unity within Christ’s body. The altar a table at which we are all welcome; regardless of our age, sex, social status, skin colour or any other crazy notion we humans dream up in order to make us fell superior to one another.
A meal that, in our tradition at least, forces us to get up from our place and to join with others around the table to share in it. And if we are equal here, at God’s table, then surely, we are equal away from here in the world. The eucharist is about equality amongst us all, it is a taste of the Kingdom. And that is no small thing.
But it is about more than simple equality.
The eucharist is an act of remembrance. By it we remember the Love and Compassion of Jesus towards the men and women around him. We recall the many meals he shared with the undesirables of his day. Tax collectors, and sinners like you and I. And we remember his promise to one day take his place again with us at God’s table. By this memory, and by our participation in the eucharist, we can know and live with Hope for this world and the coming Kingdom of God. The memory of Christ at supper with the likes of you and I, opens up a vision of new possibilities for our lives. And provides Hope for a new and different future for our world.
But there is still more.
We also recall Christs suffering, his blood poured out on the cross. And when we remember Christ’s suffering on the Cross do we not also remember the hosts of others who have suffered and died. The innocent victims of history, the children of the Holocaust, the killing fields of Cambodia, the women and men of Rwanda, the victims of gun violence in Toronto, Fredericton, and elsewhere in our country and beyond. If we can allow ourselves to feel the force of this accumulated suffering, we must surely be moved to act on behalf those who suffer amongst us. The poor and those who have lost hope, who live here in this city. If we will allow it, the remembrance of Christ’s suffering can create with in us a new moral imagination, a fresh partnership between ourselves and the weak, children women and men who have no one else, but you or I, to represent them.
It is as Jesus said, what you do to the least of these you do for me. The presence of Jesus in the eucharist, is as real as his presence in the suffering of this world. And by our participation in the eucharist we to – are tied to that suffering.
But we can still go deeper into this holy mystery
The eucharist also recalls the sacrifice of Jesus for us. God, through Jesus, acted to bring creation and all humanity into fellowship with him. So bound by our fear, and self-enclosed by our pride, we cut ourselves off from God. But, in Jesus, God comes to us without power or threat. Jesus shared in the beauty and vulnerability and darkness of human life. And by his life he brought us the gift of God’s unreserved compassion and limitless Hope. And once again established a communion with humanity and God. A communion made complete on the Cross. And we who would walk the way of the Cross with Jesus, are drawn by the eucharist into Christ’s sacrificial Love for this world. The sacrifice of the eucharist opens up for us the way to communion with God and our neighbours. Even in the midst of the brokenness of our lives and of this world we are brought closer to our very selves and with each other in this community; formed beneath a cross and around a table.
And yet we can still go deeper.
There is a clear connection between the earthly body of Jesus, His risen body, and His sacramental body. The only difference is in the manner of His presence. In the eucharist the presence of Christ, while spiritual, is as real to those gathered as his presence was with the disciples. Christ is not bound by our human notion of time and space. And so whether the community be gathered in a hut in the middle of the poorest slum of South America, with only an old door and some broken sticks for an altar, or in the grandest of European Cathedrals, Christ’s, or even here in Niagara Falls Ontario Jesus’ presence turns them all, equally, into the richest, most breath taking, and awe inspiring of gatherings.
By the presence of Jesus in the sacrament communities and people are changed. In the offertory, at the eucharist, we offer the bread, wine, and our money as symbols of our very lives. And all are changed.
The presence of Christ with the disciples changed their lives for ever. Simple fishermen became Holy Apostles, whose faith has without question changed the world. And so it follows, that our lives are also changed by our participation with Christ in the Eucharist. Our lives are taken up with His. And by God’s action we are brought closer to the Kingdom. Closer to the very God who has loved us without reserve, since our birth. But, to celebrate and mark Christ’s life changing presence in the eucharist is not enough.
If we are prepared to see Jesus in the Eucharist, then we have got to come out from before our Altar and walk with Jesus present within us out into our everyday lives. We cannot claim to worship Jesus, here at Church, if we do not help Jesus in the people we meet. You and I are called to look for Jesus in the ragged, the oppressed and in those around us who have lost Hope and whom our world likes to pretend don’t exist or don’t matter. We who have been changed by our participation with Christ in His holy meal, are called to change our world by serving these people. To bring God’s kingdom of peace and reconciliation to a world tired and beaten by hatred and violence. You see there is nothing else we can do, for there is no where else to go.
In the Eucharist we recognize Jesus as the Holy one of God. And through the mystery that is this holy meal we are made part of Christ’s life and mission. We are by virtue of our participation in this meal a Holy community, sustained by Jesus’ presence with us in the form of bread and wine. A community formed by God through Christ and the Holy Spirit, to change each other and the world.
It is through the eucharist that we are truly, made into the Church. Its why we really ought to share as often as possible at a very least once a week. And its why all Baptised Christians are welcome to receive at our celebrations. The eucharist is Christ’s meal and by it we are united into the one Body of Christ – regardless of what denomination or tradition we may come from.
The eucharist is one of the central mysteries of the Christian church and all that I have said today and much, much more is contained with in it. It is a hard teaching that at times has divided the Church. Yet, by faith each of us can begin to understand its mysteries and fully participate in Christ’s holy meal, confident in the knowledge that by this simple meal we are all brought closer to the Love and Compassion that is at the very heart of our God, this community and our very lives as God’s people. Amen.