Topical Communion Sermon
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 6/3/2023
©2023 by Maylan Schurch
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Please open your Bibles to First Corinthians chapter 11.
A week from today, right here in the sanctuary, we will be having a communion service. When I was 15 years old, the secondary academy I’d been attending closed, and the Redfield, South Dakota, Seventh-day Adventist church suddenly moved to the classroom of our one-room Adventist elementary school.
On Friday afternoons, the teacher would tell us to shove all of the school desks against the wall, and to set out probably 25 or 30 brand-new gray metal folding chairs. From one corner of the classroom, where it had stood all week, we would pull a small blonde-wood pulpit to a spot at the front of the room, and that was how we got ready for church the next day. And if that Sabbath was communion, a couple of deaconesses would be baking the unleavened bread and buying Welch’s grape juice so that they could pour it into the tiny glasses we would use on Sabbath morning.
I was always interested in communion, because it was different from the usual Sabbath morning routine. The sermon would be shorter, and there would be the foot washing service. A huge, kindly, deeply-tanned old farmer by the name of Archie would always offer to be my foot washing partner. We would always giggle together about how our feet were ticklish.
And then the pastor would read those same familiar First Corinthians 11 verses which I will be reading a week from today, as the deacons got ready to hand out the bread and the little plastic glasses of grape juice.
So communion will always be nostalgic for me. But back in those days, it was sometimes just a bit frightening as well. Here’s why. Here in First Corinthians 11, verse 23 says: “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you . . .”
But I don’t remember any pastor ever preaching on the passage which starts with verse 27:
1 Corinthians 11:27 [NKJV]: Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
Whenever I would read this, it would stop me cold. I would think about the tiny inch-square piece of bread, and that little glass of grape juice, and I would wonder, “Did I take part in communion in an unworthy manner?”
This is a perfect example of why it’s important to not just latch on to one Bible verse, or a little cluster of verses, and try to figure them out all by themselves. What you need to do is to read them in their context. A few verses back, before the familiar verses, we see that those Christians at Corinth were holding communion in crude and grotesque ways. They were basically packing their Sabbath lunch and bringing it with them, and some of them would start eating early, and others would be drunk. They had erased all the thoughtfulness, all the understanding, all the emotion, from the communion service.
Nobody ever did that in the Redfield Seventh-day Adventist church. We always celebrated communion very solemnly, maybe too solemnly. We were not Corinthians, and you most likely aren’t either.
But verse 28 does give some helpful advice.
Verse 28: But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
So, even though next week you and I are going to do communion reverently, Paul says it’s a good idea to examine ourselves, and think about how Jesus would prefer us to prepare to do communion.
So, if Jesus were right here, and we could ask him, “Lord, what should we do to prepare for next week’s communion?”
You know what I think He would say? And I’m pretty confident that this is what He would say, because He did say it. And He did act it out.
Here’s what I think He’d say: “Remember Me.”
As I mentioned, He has already said this. Look at verse 23.
Verses 23 – 24: For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
And in the next verse He says exactly the same thing about the contents of the cup: Remember Me.
“So, Lord, what should we remember about You?” As I was studying this week, I came up with three possible ways He might respond.
Turn over to Luke’s account of the Last Supper, in Luke 22.
Luke 22:14 – 16: When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
If you’re taking down sermon points, here comes what you could call Sermon Point 1. What might Jesus want us to remember as we think about communion?
“Remember how important this meal is to Me.”
When you think of it, Jesus could have simply decided to skip this Passover service. After all, by 3 o’clock the following afternoon, the real meaning of the Passover service would be fulfilled. Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and tomorrow afternoon He would complete that task.
But no, Jesus wanted to celebrate Passover – and not as a duty but as something He fervently desired. I once baptized a woman who loved communion so much that she asked me, “Why can’t we have communion every week?” Some churches do this. I checked online, and Baptists and Assemblies of God people celebrate communion about once a month. The Nazarene churches, along with the Adventists, have communion once a quarter.
Anyway, to Jesus, His final Passover and Lord’s Supper was one He was really looking forward to.
Back when my parents were still alive, Shelley and I would take a yearly trip back to South Dakota and visit them and other family which was back there. We would normally stay for a week or a little over, and then it would be time to head back.
My Mom and Dad never looked forward to our leaving, so they developed a little ritual as we departed. They would follow us 80 miles west to the town of Gettysburg, where there was a favorite café of theirs. We’d pull into the parking lot together, and we get out, and go into the café, and my parents would treat us to a last meal together.
Mom and Dad loved that final meal with us, and so did we. And when it was finally time to say goodbye, Shelley and I would go out to our car, and my parents would follow us out, and would stand there waving goodbye as we drove off. And then they would go sit in their car and cry for a while. And as we drove away, I would have to blink really fast to be able to see the road.
If Jesus were standing here today, He might say, “See? That’s exactly what I’m talking about. I fervently desired to share this kind of going-away meal with My friends.”
So what do I do with this? Paul says to “examine” ourselves, and I need to examine whether or not I really know how crucial next week’s communion service is. Because Jesus transformed that Passover into the Lord’s Supper, and urged us to continue to gather and remember Him in this way until He returns.
And this leads right into something else Jesus wants us to remember. I’m going to give you Sermon Point Two right now, so we can think about it as I talk about it.
To prepare for next week’s communion, here’s what else Jesus might say to us.’
“Remember not only how important this meal is to Me, but remember how carefully I Myself have prepared.”
Because Jesus had been preparing for Passover for centuries and centuries.
Revelation 13:8 calls Jesus “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Even before creation, Jesus knew that He would become the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world.
In Genesis 3, in a quiet Eden meadow, it was probably Jesus Himself who sacrificed some animals – maybe even two lambs – so that Adam and Eve could have something to wear. Adam and Eve died on that very day, through substitute sacrifices, which would continue to point forward to Jesus’ final sacrifice for the sins of the world, on the day after the first communion.
Oh, yes, Jesus was prepared. In Exodus 12, He or His Father gave specific directions not only for the first Passover but for how people should celebrate it every year. And as always, it revolved around a lamb, a lamb who died, and whose blood was applied to doorposts as a symbol of rescue from eternal death.
Isaiah 53:7 prophesied that the Messiah would be “led like a lamb to the slaughter.” John the Baptist saw Him approaching the Jordan River to be baptized, and shouted, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
Just for interest’s sake, I looked up the word “lamb” in my Strong’s concordance. That word shows up many times in the Old Testament, of course, what with all the talk about the sacrifices. But in the New Testament, aside from the book of Revelation, “lamb” shows up only 4 times. But in Revelation itself, the word “lamb” shows up 27 times! The book of Revelation is, as its first verse says, “the Revelation of Jesus Christ,” and Jesus made sure that the Lamb was central to the book.
So if Jesus has laid down a lot of documentation as to how carefully He has prepared the Passover meal and all that led up to it, what should I do with this?
Well, in examining myself – as Paul suggests – I need to remember that both Passover and communion are life-or-death matters. That Passover lamb – which Jesus and His disciples ate earlier in the meal – had died. And the two symbols Jesus created for the Lord’s Supper also spoke of death—the broken bread, the spilled blood.
So this is life or death. Missing next week’s communion is not a life or death issue, of course. If one year my parents had decided not to accompany us to little café for a last meal, that wouldn’t have been a life or death issue either.
But Mom and Dad loved their son and daughter-in-law, and they would not have missed that meal for the world.
So next week, let’s honor and delight our Savior by treating the Lord’s Supper as thoughtfully as He does.
I’m sure there’s a lot more that can be said about this, but I’m going to bring up maybe the most important reason Jesus treasures the communion service.
Let’s go over to John chapter 13, to see one of the most tenderhearted statements surrounding the Last Supper.
John 13:1: Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.
Here comes Sermon Point Three:
As we prepare for communion next Sabbath, Jesus tells us:
“Remember how important this meal is to Me, remember how carefully I have prepared for it, and remember how much I love you.”
Because that’s the point, right? Jesus created the Old Testament Passover service, not to prescribe one more religious ritual, but to show how much He loves us.
And Jesus created the Lord’s Supper, the communion service, not so that we could check off one more duty on our Christian checklist, but because He loves us.
Jesus loves us, and has done His best to make it as easy as possible for us to love Him back.
Take the communion elements, for example. That Thursday night, Jesus didn’t have a whole new set of foods catered in from an expensive Jerusalem deli. Instead, He used what was already in the room – a flat loaf of unleavened bread (we know it was flat because it contained no yeast), and a cup of grape juice.
I don’t know who will be making our communion bread for this coming Sabbath. By the way, some of you may not realize that for the last couple of communions, the bread you have eaten was mixed and baked by a man. And it was good!
And the communion grape juice is not some exotic, spiced mixture requiring special ingredients and a lot of preparation time. No, it’s simply pure, unfermented Welch’s grape juice.
And next week we will not need to serve roast lamb. Because Jesus loved us so much that He became the Lamb, the sacrificial Lamb of God who by His death removed the sin of the world.
And how else can we tell that Jesus loves us? Look what it says at the end of the Matthew 26 version of communion.
Matthew 26:26 – 29: And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”
Do you see what Jesus is doing here? He’s setting up a communion appointment with His disciples for when the kingdom of God is fully in charge. And since He told His disciples to spread the news about how everybody should celebrate communion, there is a strong likelihood that you and I are going to be invited to that same communion service.
And Jesus has vowed that He will not taste grape juice until that day. That is such a tender vow for Him to have made.
I do not know whether Mom and Dad ever drove the 80 miles to the Gettysburg café when Shelley and I were not there. I think there’s a good chance that they saved that café for our yearly farewell. Because they loved us deeply. And since the late 1990s they have been resting side-by-side in a little prairie cemetery part way toward Gettysburg.
And I’m certain that when the resurrection happens, and when they look up and see the face of Jesus, they will fall in love with Him all over again. And I believe that one day they will be at that heavenly table as well, reaching out for their goblets of pure celestial wine, ready to toast the joy that Jesus feels.
As I examine myself, getting ready for next Sabbath’s communion, what should I do?
Once again, Jesus tells me what to do, just as that first communion was coming to an end. In John 13, Judas has just left the upper room to betray his Lord, and Jesus says:
John 13:34 – 35: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Did you catch how Jesus repeated His instructions three times? Love one another . . . love one another . . . love one another.
Those are important marching orders from the Master, vital advice from our Heavenly Friend. Because that is what Jesus is—a friend to us, and a friend to all the sinners of the world.