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Communion Meditations (2019)

 

Pilgrim

Originally scheduled for December 15

It is a fact: communion is a continuation of the ceremony known as Passover. It is instructive to look at Passover to learn the lessons that communion should teach.

One of the first of those lessons is that it took God an entire chapter of the book of Exodus to layout the regulations for eating dinner. You were to follow specific instructions, not just “eat dinner.” Those instructions included preparation for a journey — a pilgrimage, if you will. You would eat the meal in haste — you’re in a hurry to get going. And it was to be eaten while you were dressed ready to leave on this pilgrimage. Because that’s what it would be: a pilgrimage.

A pilgrim, you see, must travel light. That was the physical aspect of this, but it has a spiritual side too. It tells us that we are not to be burdened with the things of this world as we journey through. As the old hymn puts it, “This world is not my home, I’m just a’passing through.” Indeed, on a pilgrimage you are not really in control of your own path. As Christians, our path is chosen for us by our Lord. Many of us have made plans in life that God has turned in another direction. It’s just one more reason not to become enamored of the things of this world, but to set your mind on things above.

Medieval pilgrims — a much more common type than we have today — understood this. They went down a trail to a sacred place. The sacred place usually was one where you would be able to get closer to God; they often believed that their prayers would be heard more clearly if they prayed in such a place. The idea is not all that ancient; churches used to have no locks on the door so that if someone wanted to come in and pray there would be no obstacle. As these pilgrims found, it wasn’t just the sacred place that brought them closer to God, it was the journey of getting there. It’s often said that a pilgrimage is the destination, and they understood this well.

Communion is the start of this week’s pilgrimage. Each time you take communion you are starting again by partaking of a sacred meal. Each week you leave communion to carry on with the pilgrimage which is the Christian life. It is to prepare you for this week’s journey. It is the best preparation, for it is the one which puts the Christian in touch with the sacrifice of Christ. You go forth to be the living word of God, a channel through which His grace is poured.

One last thought for you: it is not uncommon for human beings to fear death. But if you look at life as being a pilgrimage to heaven, each night pitching your tent one day’s march closer to home, you see that that pilgrimage prepares you day by day for who you are going to be eternally. So, as you partake, prepare yourself for this week’s journey. Do not wander, but followed the trail he has laid out for you. Someday this pilgrimage will end, and you will be at that greatest of destinations — home.

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