“BROKEN FOR YOU” – Pastor Donna Doutt – October 7, 2018 – World Communion Sunday - Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12

 

We’re kicking off a new series from Hebrews this week, titled “Stir Things Up”. It’s not too long, only 13 chapters, but Hebrews is a tough book to preach. It begins by telling us that while in previous days, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets, in these last days of Jesus, God has spoken by the son. It was written during a period of time when Christians were starting to be persecuted. Remember your history that Emperor Nero blamed Christians for the burning of Rome? 

Old Testament Jews lived by the Mosaic Laws, the laws that Moses gave them. The Law of the Old Covenant was replaced by Grace in the New Covenant. But many of the New Testament Christian Jews, not being able or willing to stand up to the persecution from Rome, are quitting the Christian church during this time period and returning back to their synagogues. To put it in a nutshell, the writer of this epistle suggests that the law-abiding Jewish religion is obsolete. When God speaks of a “new” covenant, notice the emphasis on “NEW”, it means He has made the first one obsolete.  

[1] Christians believe that the promised New Covenant came into being at the Last Supper as part of the Communion,[1] which in the Gospel of John includes the New Commandment, 34-35 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 34-35 (The Message)

Protestants tend to believe that the New Covenant only came into force with the death of Christ. Therefore, Christians believe that Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant, and that the Blood of Christ shed at his crucifixion is the required blood of the covenant.

The New Covenant is an ongoing relationship between Christian believers and God that will be in full fruition after the Second Coming of Christ. The connection between the Blood of Christ and the New Covenant is "this cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood". You heard those same words said here today during our Communion service.

But back to those Christian Jews then, there really was nothing TO go back to. God’s agreement with Abraham, which sets the Jews apart as his chosen people, has expired now with the Blood of Christ. God had promised to make a New Covenant and here it is!

Christianity is not only God’s planned replacement for Judaism, it’s the NEW AND IMPROVED religion. The New Covenant is a fresh start.

This book of Hebrews unveils to us this passionate Jesus  - one who is made perfect through the excruciating sufferings of our human experience…His body broken for us…and his blood of the new covenant poured out for us. And so Jesus is like an oxymoron – the reality of human life and divine love wrapped up in a savior for all of us.  Jesus is the real thing – the faithful creator of God-drenched living, reflecting the glory of God in the flesh-and-blood experiences of earthly life.  

The earthly life of Jesus, God personified, is given for us…is broken for us…in the greatest sacrifice ever known. What is given has first been broken.

[2]The gospels report that Jesus said about the bread he broke and gave to his disciples at his last meal with them. "This is my body, broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me." That’s why we remember the action of Jesus breaking the bread in the Great Thanksgiving.

Second, and more deeply, perhaps, is the understanding of sacrifice implied  in these actions — both what Jesus was about to do himself, what Jesus was doing at that moment with his disciples, and what we are doing as we offer ourselves to God in the Great Thanksgiving in union with Christ's offering for us.

Ritually, this is how sacrifices are celebrated in the Old Testament. The priest TAKES the elements to be offered (whether grain, wine, oil or animal flesh), BLESSES God and seeks God's blessing upon them, and then BREAKS and GIVES them to those who are present for the sacrifice to consume them together.

In consuming what has been offered and blessed by God, everyone nourished by God's presence among them. Therefore, when Jesus TOOK bread, BLESSED God, BROKE the bread, and GAVE it to his disciples, ritually, he was enacting a sacrifice of thanksgiving in which it was understood the bread was his body, and the cup was his blood. And when the disciples ate the bread and drank the cup, they were (and we still are!) nourished by the presence of Christ in his body and blood.

[3]Dr. Michael Hegeman, a theologian from Pinnacle Presbyterian Church in Phoenix writes, “…we cannot escape the story of the cross; how things had gone wrong and still go wrong today; how our lives are caught up in the seemingly unending tale of human subjection to sin; and, how the whole created order is caught in this tension. In our experience, we may forget the sufficiency of God, because the plan seems to be in such turmoil. Sin seems rampant on a global scale.”

How appropriate that we cannot escape that story to this day, and probably never will in our entire lives.

World Communion Sunday started in 1933 by a Presbyterian church. It was a time where people felt without hope, they felt divided. And the idea that sprang out of that church was this: we need a Sunday were all who are Christians gather at a table and remember we are one. 

Our global body is broken. But this text from Hebrews today and our coming together globally and partaking of this global table is a beginning.

The key word for World Communion Sunday IS communion, or unity. It is a day when we mark the almost universal Christian practice of breaking bread with one another and remembering both the night of Jesus’ betrayal—when Jesus instituted what we now call the Lord’s Supper as a lasting remembrance—and, more importantly…Jesus’ sacrifice.

When I speak the words of the Communion service, and say “broken for you”, I remember many of my global friends (and yes, I really do have global friends), whose bodies have been broken, but like Christ they were given for many.

I’ve spoken several times of my young friend John, the only surviving member of his family of the horrendous genocide in Rwanda when 800,000 people were killed in less than 30 days. After hearing his heart-wrenching story of watching his parents be murdered and his survival, he proclaimed he was not bitter or angry. Through the sacrifice of others, he had lived. God had blessed him. His family’s bodies were broken for him, but yet he lived to praise them.

I have been on my knees in prayer with him and many survivors like him. We have broken bread together on our knees, and realized the true redemption we can receive from the broken body of Christ given for us.

I only need to close my eyes to see those friends and their pain. I only need to close my eyes to see the image of Christ, his body broken for us, his blood of the new covenant dripping from his battered body and being poured out for us.

John P. Burgess, a theology professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary writes, [4]”Only the One who has created the world can redeem it….Christ makes purification for sin.” That’s made clear in Chapter 1: verse 3: He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains[b] all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

“He sanctifies us and makes us his brothers and sisters” (2:11) 11 For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father.[j] For this reason Jesus[k] is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.

“Through his sufferings, he brings God many children to glory” (2:10) 12 saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”

And finally, “By dying, he takes on death for everyone” (2.9) 9 but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower[g] than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God[h] he might taste death for everyone.

Burgess finishes his perspective on this scripture by writing on these Hebrews scriptures, “(the book) sets forth Christ as the one thread that runs throughout salvation history. Through him alone, we see the full work of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “

One of my favorite praise songs that we sing at Faith on 68 is titled, “In Christ Alone”. If you’ve never heard it, I encourage you to google up this powerful song. One of the verses goes like this:

[5]There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

So, yes it is that Christ’s blood of the New Covenant was poured out for us. And yes it is that Christ’s body was broken for us, and it was also given for us. We are the inheritors of God’s love through Jesus Christ.

So let us now raise our voices in praise and glory as we sing this wonderful Wesleyan hymn, “Ye Servants of God”, hymn #181

 Ye servants of God, your Master proclaim, 
and publish abroad his wonderful name; 
the name all-victorious of Jesus extol, 
his kingdom is glorious and rules over all. 
AMEN!

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Covenant

[2] http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe

[3] Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 4, p. 139

[4] Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 4, p. 138

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