August 24, 2018
Many of you may remember a time when you didn't receive Communion every Sunday. It may be because you were raised in a different Christian tradition that didn't emphasize weekly Communion, but rather had it monthly, or even quarterly. It may be because you were raised in the Episcopal Church during a time when Morning Prayer was the dominant Sunday service. Why do Episcopalians now celebrate Holy Communion every week? Since the Protestant Reformation, many branches of the church moved away from sacramental observances and emphasized prayer and the reading of scripture believing that prayer and the Word of God was enough to sustain the people. For a long time, many, if not most, Episcopal Churches went in that direction. When the Book of Common Prayer was revised in 1979, it returned Holy Communion to the place of primacy in Episcopal worship practices. This was the result of increased scholarship by liturgical historians and archaeologists who pointed out that the traditions of the church 1800 or 1900 years ago revolved around Holy Communion. Weekly Communion was the practice of the earliest Church. And there are two major theories about why the early church placed such an emphasis on Communion (and these theories are not mutually exclusive). The first (and probably better known) theory is that the earliest Christians continued to gather together and share a meal because of Jesus' command at the Last Supper that they continue to break the bread and share the wine "in remembrance of me." The second theory is that if you read the Gospel accounts of Jesus' appearances after the resurrection, many of them involve food. After the Road to Emmaus, the disciples knew Jesus in the breaking of the bread. After that, Jesus appeared among them and asked for a piece of fish. The resurrected Jesus shared breakfast on a beach by the Sea of Galilee. Some think the disciples were gathered for a meal at the time of the appearance to Thomas. So the second theory is that the early church continued the practice because they knew from experience that it was when they shared a meal together that Jesus was most likely to show up. Now we celebrate Holy Communion every week for three major reasons: 1) it ties us to our ancestors in faith, "the communion of saints," who have been observing this practice for 2000 years, 2) Jesus asked his follower to "do this in remembrance of me," and 3) because we believe and our scriptures tell us that Jesus shows up when we break bread together.
See you Sunday,