Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church is a tiny part of the universal and eternal Body of Christ. Like the living body of which we are a part, we need to be nourished, nurtured, encouraged, embraced, instructed and inspired (in-spirited). Communion, the Lord’s Supper in very traditional Baptist language, is one of the primary ways in which we claim our place in the Body of Christ and experience the nourishment, nurture, encouragement, embrace, instruction and inspiration which flows from God via the Spirit. Communion is one of the primary ways in which we identify ourselves as part of the Body of Christ.
The notable Protestant theologian John Calvin, writing to the devout in Geneva in 1536, defined Communion as “an outward sign by which the Lord seals on our consciences the promises of his good will toward us in order to sustain the weakness of our faith.” In this he acknowledged that Communion is a way in which God brings good into the lives of those of us whose bodies are often weary, whose minds are easily distracted and whose faith is often weak.
A contemporary church leader, Rob Bell, writing in his best-selling book “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell and The Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived,” in which he challenged many traditional understandings of hell, writes of Communion, “When we take the Eucharist, or Communion, we dip bread into a cup, enacting and remembering Jesus’ gifts of himself, his body his blood, for the life of the world. Our bodies, our lives, for the life of the world. These rituals are true for us, because they’re true for everybody. They unite us, because they unite everybody. These are signs, glimpses and tastes of what is true for all people in all places at all times – we simply name the mystery present in all the world, the gospel already announces to every creature under heaven. He holds the entire universe in his embrace, he is within and without time. He is the flesh and blood exposure of an eternal reality. He is the sacred power present in every dimension of creation.”
Bell makes some audacious claims. Yet, those claims are grounded in the founding promise of Communion – Jesus came to us with the good news, indeed the great news, that God is forever for us and not against us.
This October at LABC, we will not only celebrate World Communion Sunday, which is traditionally celebrated by American Baptists and other Protestants around the globe on the first Sunday of October, but World Communion Month. We will partake in Communion in worship on all four Sundays of the month. We will partake in Communion of October 6th when we celebrate Pastor Tanner’s 20th Anniversary with us. We will partake in Communion on October 13th when we share worship with the San Francisco Kachin Baptist Church. We will partake in Communion on October 20th when we sing in Spanish and dedicate the new Santa Biblias, the Spanish language Bibles for the increasing number of Spanish speaking persons in our congregation. We will partake in Communion during the Children’s Time on October 27.
Simply put, I believe that joy awaits us in October as we gather at the Communion Table to connect with the Spirit and claim the story at the heart of our faith.