Advent 3 Midweek: Sermon Series, the Four Pillars of the Christian Community
Delivered By
Pr. Lovett
Delivered On
December 14, 2011
Central Passage
Acts 20:1-7
The Breaking of Bread
+ On The Breaking of Bread +
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
We have been discussing and examining what I am calling the four pillars of the Christian Community.  Tonight we look at the third pillar, the breaking of bread.
Everyone breaks bread.  It’s a euphemism that means to eat together a shared meal.  When you sit at your kitchen table with your family, you break bread together.  The Christian family, the family of God, the Church, is no different.  When she comes together as a family, as the Body of Christ, as the Church, she does so in order that she would break bread together.  So we heard read that it was the custom of the Church since the apostles to gather together on the first day of the week – Sunday, the day of the resurrection of Jesus – to break bread together, to share in a common meal.
But as you can certainly deduce, it was no common meal.  For St. Paul later writes to the Christians in Corinth, “Is not the cup of blessing a participation in the blood of Christ?  Is not the bread we break participation in the body of Christ?”  It is!  The meal of the Church of God is not ordinary food.  It’s manna; bread from heaven come down to earth as Jesus says, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” (Jn. 6:41)  It is His Supper, the Lord’s Supper.  Just as the Lord fed the Israelites with manna in the desert and the five and four thousand with miracle food multiplied a thousand-fold, so the Lord feeds His people miracle food multiplied a million-fold throughout time and space so that the bread we break and participate in is the same bread the apostles broke and participated in.  The grain may be different, but the substance belongs to Christ.
In accord with the custom of the apostles, we gather together on the first day of the week to break bread together.  That’s why we get together.  That’s what the Sunday morning gathering is all about.
In the days of the apostles, the public reading of the Scriptures was done daily.  The preaching was done daily in the temple and in the homes of Christians and friends of Christians.  That’s why the Church has since her beginning had the daily offices of Matins and Vespers, among others; for the daily reading of Scripture and the expounding of it.  But Sunday was the day for the Body of Christ, the Church, those devoted to the apostles’ doctrine they’d heard in the temple or in Christian homes, to come together for that special, sacred meal in which Christ revealed Himself to His people.
But we’ve rolled it all into one – the reading, preaching, and breaking of bread – which is fine.  But it is disconcerting that the reason for the gathering – the breaking of bread – is the one that so often gets the boot and is the first to go.  No one would suggest not preaching on Sunday or not reading the Bible or singing hymns.  But how many Christians suggest that the Body of Christ not participate in the very meal for which the Body is gathered together.  But by not purposefully avoiding this holy meal, this table of the Lord, we are denying Christ’s sacrifice and blessing.  Just as if we purposefully refused to eat at our earthly father’s table would be an insult to him, denying his sacrifice to provide for his family and refusing to commune with him; so by refusing to participate in the Supper of Christ is to reject the One who gives it.
There has been much ink spilled on the topic of the Lord’s Supper.  And we cannot begin to do it justice here in a midweek service, except to say that this blessed meal is holy for holy people.  It’s not only for the super Christian or the good Christian.  It’s for those who are devoted to the apostles’ doctrine of forgiveness, life, and salvation in Jesus’ name.  It’s for the young and old, the sick and dying, the healthy and vibrant, men, women, and children.  Even as we believe, teach, and confess in the Large Catechism that children too, since they are baptized and received into the Christian fellowship, should participate in this holy mystery that they would teach us how to believe and fight against the devil.
We don’t see Jesus anymore like Peter, James, and John saw Him.  We see Him in the breaking of the bread.  It’s not flesh and bone we see, it is the crucified, risen, and ascended Lord we see; coming to us who are gathered in His name; feeding us the bread of peace, His flesh; satiating our thirst for righteousness with His blood.  By participating in this holy meal we participate in Christ and proclaim His death until He comes in the future.  By it we are joined to Him as St. Paul wrote, “We are one body because we partake of one bread.”  Our union, our communion, is not in our feelings or in our agreement over which hymns are good and which we could do without; it’s not over kneelers or church décor.  Our communion is the Body and Blood of Christ.  Praise the One who makes us one, giving us the very bread of peace.
In Nomine Iesu
+ Amen +