“Communion and the Body of Christ”
Sermon based on 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 and 12:12-27
Rev. Paul E. Capetz
Christ Church by the Sea (United Methodist),
Newport Beach February 2, 2020
This week our congregation marked the passing of two of our beloved members: Victoria Woodworth and Anna Pistole. Some of us attended Victoria’s funeral on Friday and yesterday Anna’s memorial service was held here. Now we gather again for worship as we do every Sunday morning, only today we will celebrate communion, as we do on the first Sunday of every month. All week long I’ve been thinking about the services for Victoria and Anna, on the one hand, and our communion service, on the other hand. And this combination has reminded me of an important truth. The word “communion” as we find it in our religious tradition has a double meaning. First, it refers to our ritual of remembering Jesus’ last supper; and second, it refers to our fellowship with one another, as in “the communion of saints” mentioned in the Apostles’ Creed. It’s the relationship between these two senses of “communion” that I want us now to explore.
The word “communion” means “fellowship” and “participation.” It is related to the word “common,” as when we speak of “our common life” or “the things we share in common.” So, for example, fife-long friends have common memories of shared experiences. The word “communion” is also clearly related to our word “community.” We speak of being a participant in a community or of sharing in someone the lives of others. When Jesus had his last supper with his disciples, this was one of many meals he had shared in common with them over the course of his ministry. Their meals had been not only opportunities to eat and to nourish their bodies; they were just as much opportunities to have fellowship with one another, to experience community with each other, to share in one another’s lives, and thus to participate with their hearts, minds, and souls in the lives of others. When we celebrate the ritual of communion, we remember this meal of Jesus with his disciples and we participate in it ourselves, we share in the experience with them.