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Communion Meditations (2016)

Painswick

Originally scheduled for October 9

The year 1940 was a rather tense one for England. In the summer of that year it was presumed that the Germans would be invading rather shortly, no one knew where or when. But the British Army was not about to be caught short in its paperwork. The appropriate bureaucrats produced a requirement for every civic organization in England to have a “War Book.” Among many other items to be listed, there was to be a list of items available which might be of assistance to the Army in its transport and operations.

The same requirements were proposed for the largest of cities and the smallest of villages. In particular there was a village named Painswick, population about 1800. Painswick is located about 30 miles southwest of Stratford-upon-Avon. Their list of items is somewhat unusual. They started off quite well by listing the fact that they had 11 horses and 16 wheelbarrows. A little further down the list we find that they had six bedpans, 10 pair of scissors (denoted as “large”) and 13 hot water bottles. But just to make sure they included everything, they added 7 ½ pounds of tea, three tin cans of condensed milk and one fish kettle. The Germans having failed to invade England, we shall never know what the intended purpose of the fish kettle was.

It is a comforting fact of human beings that they face the unknown and the dangerous with three questions:

·         What is the right procedure under the circumstances?

·         Have we included everyone in the procedure?

·         Have we thought of everything for the procedure?

Perhaps this is why our Lord gave us communion. It is a noticeable fact that communion is done in a calm manner, reflecting the fact that we know the answers to those questions. The “right” procedure is well known, given to us in the Scriptures. The procedure includes all who believe — for we are to invite all who believe to join us in communion. And communion is so simple at its very roots that it is difficult not to think of everything involved. Beyond bread and wine, what else do we need?

Had our Lord given us detailed instructions for a complicated ceremony, we would do our best to follow those instructions. In his infinite wisdom he chose not to do that. Rather, he gave us a ceremony which is so simple that the human mind is drawn to the meaning behind it. We see in this ceremony the body and blood of Jesus Christ, given for our atonement on the Cross. The ceremony itself does not get in the way of our understanding of its meaning. Sometimes the simple is also the profound. As you partake this morning, let your mind’s eye I go back to Calvary and see what your Lord has done for you. Then, in obedience to his command, eat and drink.

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