Tonight, we’re continuing through our Lent journey as together, we have been encouraged to go deeper.
This last evening together before Good Friday, we are going to be challenged to go deeper in communion.
In many traditions, today is the day during Holy Week when we recall the planned betrayal of Judas.
It was just two days before the Passover celebration, the last one that Jesus would share with His disciples. Behind closed doors, much was stirring around the destiny of Jesus.
The chief priests and elders were meeting secretly to scheme how they could arrest and kill Jesus. They saw Him as a threat that must be stopped.
At the same time in Bethany, a woman broke an Alabaster jar and poured an expensive perfume over Jesus. His disciples considered it a waste of money, especially His treasurer, Judas.
This woman counted not the cost of what she was losing, but saw only the worth of Jesus and what He was deserving of. Jesus praised this act of sacrificial worship and said that her act would be preached throughout the world accompanying the gospel message as she was preparing Him for His soon burial.
This act, however, pushed Judas over the edge and caused him to go to the chief priests to also place a value on Jesus. This value placed on Him wasn’t from a heart of worship, but as an act of vengeance and selfish greed.
In the midst of all of this stirring, Jesus was also fully aware that His time was drawing near and reminded His disciples of this fact.
Through all of this stirring, something was being challenged and put to the test that Jesus was working to accomplish. This thing was communion.
Now when most of us hear the word communion, we think of the bread and juice or wine that we share as an act of remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus and of His last Passover celebration. However, the Greek word translated into communion carries a meaning far deeper than this symbolic act that we participate in.
The word is koinōnia (koi-nō-nē’-ä). It is the concept of fellowship and of community. It is the joint participation of people working to build something greater together than each one could ever accomplish individually.
When we share the bread and juice or wine at communion, we are remembering the sacrifice that Jesus made so that we might share communion with God and with one another.
Koinōnia is the heart and motive behind the very existence of our ministerium and why we so highly value the entire family of God and community of faith in our area. It is why we create opportunities to gather together regardless of our denomination or traditions.
Communion was one of the goals of Jesus on the cross beyond simply the forgiveness of our sins. After all, we know that sin separates us from God. Sin destroys communion.
However, sin separating us from God doesn’t occur in the way that we commonly think that it does. Consider the account in Genesis when mankind first sinned.
Who ran and hid after sin occurred? Adam and Eve
Who was ashamed of their condition? Adam and Eve
Who actively pursued who after this event? God pursued Adam and Eve
Yes, sin separates us from God. However, it isn’t that God who is repelled by sin and runs away from it. It isn’t actually God who moves or changes at all.
No, it is us who separate ourselves from Him. Sin doesn’t separate God from us, it separates us from God. We often misunderstand this reality and therefore, we often misunderstand who God is and how He chooses to respond to us in our sin.
Rather, in their sin, God pursued Adam and Eve and covered their shame. In the same way, Jesus didn’t run and hide from the lepers or those bound by demons or from those actively living lifestyles of sin.
Rather, Jesus chose to go out and meet these individuals in the midst of their sin. Jesus forgave them and defended them and delivered them and healed them. And yes, He did also say, “Go and sin no more.”
Jesus met you and I where we were while we were yet sinners. His great unfailing love embraced us as we were, forgave us of our sin, and transformed us into a new creation.
Sin separates, but Jesus unites. Sin destroys communion, but forgiveness restores it. We are now adopted into a new family; we are brothers and sisters in Christ. We live in communion with God and with one another.
We were created for communion or fellowship or community or whatever you would like to call koinōnia.
Jesus died to forgive our sins not so that we can scurry off on our own way and live a better life for ourselves. Jesus died to forgive our sins so that we can commune with Him and have nothing separating us.
Jesus also died to forgive our sins so that we can commune with one another.
We were created for community. It is only through community that we can fully receive and express God’s love poured out into our lives and all of His gifts and resources and benefits. We are better together and it is only together that can we represent Jesus to the world around us.
We all come together in communion to form the body of Christ. Each one of us is a unique individual intentionally created that way by Jesus. Each one of us is a critically necessary part of His body.
Jill did an awesome job last week reminding and challenging us to go deeper into the love of Jesus; loving Him with all of our heart and all of our soul and all of our strength. This is the Shema prayer by Jewish tradition and what Jesus taught as the first and greatest commandment. In fact, the apostle Paul teaches us that to love is to fulfill the entire law.
Tonight, we are reminded of the second greatest command of Jesus; to love others as we love ourselves. Loving God and loving others is the motive that takes us deeper in communion.
I love what happened after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We see this picture of what the church looked like at its very beginning. This is a snapshot of what I believe the communion that Jesus gave His life for looks like and acts like.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship (koinōnia), to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
If we so choose, we too can embrace this lifestyle of communion. Daily, we can go deeper into fellowship with God and with one another. Together, there could be no need unmet. Together, could build one another up. Together, we could have favor with those around us.
The natural result of this type of faith community lifestyle is the salvation of others. Individually, we may be able to shine the light and hope of Jesus to a degree, but together, we become a lighthouse to the community around us.
We are better together, stronger together, and we grow more effectively together.
23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
This is why we gather together in koinōnia and why Jesus gave His life to make it possible, so that we can encourage one another and spur each other on to good deeds.
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
When we join together, each of us fulfilling our unique role and purpose, we form the body of Christ according to Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12. Attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ is something that I can only begin to fathom.
However, according to God’s own word, it is something that we can attain, but only when we work together as a community, a family, a fellowship, a koinōnia of faith.
Is it any wonder, then, why the enemy stirs up such division among the body of Christ?
Each one of us can come up with a whole list of legitimate excuses for staying busy in our own lives. Tonight, however, we are being challenged to go deeper in communion.
Don’t get out of the habit of meeting together as some are, but get into the habit of intentionally meeting together with other believers.
YES, attend your local church services faithfully, but also make it a point to work together in communion with other believers outside of your local church.
Also be intentional about getting together with those who have not yet put their faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ even as Jesus did.
For those unaware, and as a bit of a commercial break as we close, there is also a work that has begun here in our local area for this very purpose. Check out R&P Coffee in Rural Valley and see how you can get involved. Their entire purpose is to be a place where this type of community can take place.
And as we leave here this evening and continue in our Lenten journey into the passion of Christ, I pray that the Holy Spirit gives us a sense of urgency to intentionally go deeper in communion both with Jesus as well as with one another.
We are better together, stronger together, and healthier together just as Jesus intended and gave His life to provide.
Go deeper in communion!