Communion in three parts, by Nicole Gonzalez
Hello! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Nicole Gonzalez; I’m a senior here at UNC so I have just one short month left and the past four years that I’ve been here I’ve been really involved in LCM. I for sure wouldn’t be who I am today without LCM, the relationships I’ve made here have been unlike anything and it’s been a community that has inspired me and helped me grow so I’m very thankful for that. This school and this place and the HTLC congregation have become so special in my heart and so I was really happy about the opportunity to give the reflection tonight.
In the reading, we heard about the Last Supper that Jesus shares with his disciples and that we share together every Sunday morning. “In the night in which he was betrayed…” we hear these words of institution and as we receive this sacrament, we hear “Body of Christ, given for you”. And “Blood of Christ, shed for you”. Not only do I hear these words on Sundays but also on Wednesdays during the school year with our evening LCM services. so thats twice a week for the last four years not to mention I grew up hearing these words over and over. Hopefully for you, the routine hasn’t caused any loss in meaning but for young high schooler, I’d say that’s common. It’s hard to fully grasp what is happening during Holy Communion and sometimes I still can’t get it. In high school, I wouldn’t say I had a very strong faith and it wasn’t until I came to college, where church isn’t a requirement, that I started really discovering what faith was about. A big part of this discovery was the relationships I built in LCM. The upperclassman were role models that I could really look up to like Blair Flint, Hilda Santiago and others you all may know. I saw a group of 40 people who were willing and excited to come to church without anyone telling them they had to. That was amazing and inspiring to me. I will always remember one of the first services I went to and after communion, I noticed one person taking the bread and wine and then bowing their head in prayer. It was significant to me to see how important communion could be to someone.
When I was young and first learning about communion, someone was saying to me how everyone processes communion differently, which is of course very true. But they mentioned that people would sometimes take the bread and wine and then return to their seats with tears streaming down their face. That was so confusing to me as a small 10 year old or however old I was. Why would anyone cry over some bread and wine in church? It’s possible that this question was not fully answered for me until last Friday. Last weekend a few LCMers got together on Friday night to watch the Passion of Christ. It was my first time watching this movie and it was agony. To see such an accurate and gruesome depiction of our Christ’s trial and crucifixion was eye-opening. Little did my 10 year old self know that 12 years later I would be walking back to my seat with tears in my eyes like I did last Sunday, thinking about those visuals I witnessed in the film and the huge and painful sacrifice that was made for me to receive such a gift.
This gift of Holy Communion is also a form of communication. I’ve always heard communication is key, and that is so true. Human life is completely impossible without communication. Once it was explained to me that in our lives we encounter three types of communication, and Holy Communion falls into the first which is God communicating with us.
We are his beloved children and He communicates that with us through these gifts and signs of His love, such as Holy Communion. God gives us gifts abundantly in this world. Most recently, we were gifted with a national championship on Monday night. He gifts us with fulfilled promises like a rainbow in the sky. Gifts in the many other wonders of his creation, like a Carolina blue sky or magnificent sunset watched from atop a castle in Germany. Gifts through the sacraments. The waters of baptism. His word in the Bible. I could go on and on. Not to mention the gift of his very own Son, coming to Earth to die on the cross for our sins. This is God communicating with us. Telling us that we are worth so much to him.
The second type of communication is us communicating to God. This is something I rarely did growing up. I didn’t realize how much our God is a personal and intimate God who only asks for our love and affection. ((LCM has played a part inspiring me in this area. I started picking up on things I was observing around me, like the friend who bowed his head in prayer after every communion as I mentioned earlier. Another example is when we pass around the offering plate at LCM, we are asked to say a prayer. Rather than giving money that we broke college students just don’t have, we are giving ourselves and our thoughts.
I saw these things and I wanted to participate. I wanted to communicate with God as well. At first I wasn’t sure what I needed to say in these moments either during offering or after communion. But as I saw more and more signs of God’s love around me, as I stopped and listened to Him communicating with me, it was easy to be overwhelmed by the great abundance of God’s love. It took me about half way through freshman year but my connection with god felt so much stronger than I had ever experienced. God constantly reaches out to us and is there for us, but by returning that communication to Him in the midst of stressful and busy lives, that communication can easily fill you with peace. And love. So through our prayers and our worship and our offering to God, we are in communication with Him.
The third type of communication is people to people. Community. This is something that as human beings we naturally crave. God created us to be in community with others. I’ve already talked about how the LCM community has been inspiring to me and you can see how these three kind of all fit together—making our faith complete. … God speaking to us. Us speaking to God. And then us speaking to others. This third type of communication is the one seen most often by others, the type that I saw as a high schooler but my faith could never go very deep without recognizing God’s communication with me and without my communication with Him. Then in college, when I finally fit all three together, the Bible studies were much more significant. The service work I did, much more meaningful. The conversations with those around me, filled with so much more substance. In community, we share in worship, praise, sacrament. We share in celebration, support, and often grief and hurting as well.
So tonight, talking about communion, when we come to the table, we are receiving such a special gift. And God is not only telling us of His great love for us but we are receiving that love and receiving the Holy Spirit given to us through the death and rising of Christ and through our baptism. We are receiving a blessing. Ok so I ingest these elements, bread and wine, I receive this blessing and… what do I do with it? Blessings are certainly not meant to be hoarded. This is not something to keep to ourselves. In community and people to people communication, it can be hard to support and love others when you yourself are not filled up. We need our filling of the Holy Spirit, we need our blessing in order to go out be a blessing to others. We are called to take this blessing and turn it back around.
I always remember this when I bow my head in prayer after receiving communion and there’s one part of my prayer that is always the same. As I am presented with communion I think of all three of these communication venues. As I receive a sign of God’s love, I talk to Him and pray that this gift will help fill me up with the Holy Spirit. Communion is a blessing upon us. We need to be filled in order to fill others up. Blessed in order to be a blessing to others.
So with the remainder of lent I want to challenge you to be mindful of bringing these three communications together. Where do you see signs of Gods love in this world? Listen, He is speaking to you. In what places of your life can you offer yourself up to God? Pray and give him praise, he is listening. And lastly, what communication will you give through your words and your actions? Be a blessing towards others, as you have surely been blessed by God. Amen.