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.