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Communion Meditations (2016)

Second Class

Originally scheduled for February 14

(This story is not apocryphal.)

She sat in the back of the church. After all, the church couldn’t very well keep her out of the building. She was a young mother, alone, and in need of help. More than just physical help; she needed the advice of good Christian women. After all, Jesus came to seek and save the lost — and here was one of the lost. So in good Christian charity the church could not deny her entrance.

But not quite all the way into the church — after all, there are the circumstances to consider. What about the example she would set for the young girls in the church? What would her presence do for the “character of our witness?” People expect the church to be a model of righteousness. So it was best to keep her at the back of the church, and out of the more prominent lady’s groups.

You might ask why. The answer is quite simple: in a time when the church still believed that divorce was generally a sin, she had divorced her drunken, womanizing husband. There is much more to the story, but there was the blatant bad example she had set.

Christ’s method was somewhat different. You might remember the woman taken in adultery. Jesus drove off her accusers — we’re not quite sure how — and his parting remark was simply, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more.” Even today there are some of us who still think that adultery is sinful. But it seems that Christ did indeed come to seek and save the lost.

In fact — if you will remember the story of Levi, also known as Matthew — you will find one of the central accusations against Jesus of Nazareth. He partied too hearty, too often, with all the wrong people. The folks at the party received him very gladly; the religious authorities were utterly scandalized. Worse yet, Matthew turned out to be an apostle! So perhaps an unblemished life is not quite the requirement for being a Christian that we might think.

This is clearly seen in the Lord’s Supper. You recall that Christ washed the feet of his disciples — a task usually assigned to the lowest servant in the household. He made clear that the kingdom of God is open even to the lowest, and its members should be open to the lowest of service. Having done that, he invested what had been the Passover meal with a new significance. He said, “this is my body; this is my blood.” In so doing he made this a memorial feast for all Christians.

But I might point out something to you: I have never been in a church that use more than one type of communion tray. Whether for the cup or the bread, everyone uses the same set of trays. There is no thought that we will have one type of tray for the first class Christian, and another for the second class Christian. Why? Because in Christ’s kingdom, there are no second-class citizens. His kingdom is open to “whosoever will.” In the simple act of providing the same memorial meal to all, we proclaim the equality of his kingdom. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female — and no second-class either. We are one in Christ, for we are the church, his body.

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