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Communion Meditations (2022)

 

On Our Knees

Originally scheduled for August 21

Back in the days when such things as church choirs and hymns, some were used for particular purposes in worship. One such purpose was a hymn to introduce communion. Perhaps the most commonly used hymn was Let Us Break Bread Together on Our Knees. For those who are too young to have heard it, it was a Negro spiritual with these words:


Let us break bread together on our knees.
Let us break bread together on our knees.
When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun,
O Lord have mercy on me.
 
Let us drink wine together on our knees.
Let us drink wine together on our knees.
When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun,
O Lord have mercy on me.
 
The song dates at least from the 17th century. At that time, slaves were very often required to attend a worship service in the Episcopal Church. For the convenience of their white masters, they attended a service that was early in the morning — at sunrise — so their masters could sleep in. Episcopal churches in that time were very often oriented on an east-west axis. Thus, when someone knelt at the communion rail they were facing East, towards the sunrise. For those attuned to certain theories of Revelation, it also meant they were looking in the general direction from which Christ would return.
 
The song itself gives us several reminders of the nature of communion and how we should partake of it.
            Our attitude should be one of being on our knees. It implies an attitude of humility. It is recognition that He is God and we are not; we owe our salvation to him, He is not indebted to us.
            Mentally, we are to have our face to the sun — that is, looking at the Light of the World. We seek his enlightenment, his comfort and his guidance. We do so in the process of acknowledging our debt to him.
            We call him “Lord.” Never forget that if you are a Christian you are promised to deal with Jesus Christ as your Lord as well as your Savior. You owe him your obedience. Examine yourself at this time and see if there is something lacking there.
            Finally, the chorus ends with “Lord have mercy on me.” In communion we explicitly ask our Lord for the forgiveness of our sins based not upon our virtues but upon his loving grace. We ask for what he freely gives: mercy.

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