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Communion Meditations (2018)

 

Grafting

Originally scheduled for November 4

In the middle of the 19th century, the European wine industry was faced with a crisis. A strange disease was destroying all of the vines which produced wine grapes. The culprit was a small aphid which poisoned the roots of the vines. The solution was rather unorthodox. There was no pesticide available which could kill this aphid, but grapevine roots from North America were naturally resistant. By grafting the European grape vines on the American roots, the epidemic was stopped. Many European growers felt that the American roots were inferior, but ultimately they had no choice. They either grafted onto the American roots, or the grapes died.

One of the problems the early church faced was something similar. As the church spread from its Jewish roots into the Gentile world, an explanation was needed for how God would allow this to happen. After all, the Jews were the chosen people. The Jewish Christians were confronted with the fact that God wanted this to happen, but they needed an explanation that would satisfy their understanding. The solution was in this image of grafting onto an existing root. The Gentile Christian was grafted onto the Jewish roots. This, incidentally, is a picture of how it is that a non-Jewish Christian can claim the Old Testament as part of his faith. He’s been grafted into the family of God.

Communion is a classic example of this; the root of communion is Passover. From Passover we inherit a number of aspects of communion:

·         Passover required a blameless sacrifice, just as Christ was our perfect sacrifice on the cross.

·         The sacrifice produced blood. In Passover this was used to save the Jews from death in the 10th plague. In Christianity we know that it is the blood of Christ that covers our sin.

·         Before celebrating Passover, the Jew was required to eliminate all yeast (which symbolically represents sin) from his house. The Christian is to examine himself and repent before taking communion.

·         The Jew was to eat bread which had no yeast in it for the duration of the Passover feast, just as we are to keep ourselves from sin.

·         Only the circumcised could participate in Passover; only those who believe in Jesus should take communion.

We have been, in a very real sense, “grafted” into the story that God is telling his children through the years. The high point of that story so far is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These are the events that we are to remember in communion. The bread his body, the cup his blood to remind us of what he has done for us. Examine yourself, therefore, and partake in a worthy manner.

The vine does not grow unless it is properly tended. The remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ, the regular act of self-examination and repentance, and finally the reminder that Christ is coming again will serve to help your own vine grow.

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