A sermon delivered by Rev. Dr. Randy Hammer, October 7, 2012
Luke 22:14-20 GNT
The world has changed drastically the past 10 years. And one of the things responsible for such drastic change is the cell phone. Probably more people than not now have a cell phone that they carry with them constantly. We depend upon the cell phone for so many things, not just making telephone calls. Some of us find ourselves checking our cell phone often, looking for new emails or messages. It is common while driving to see as many drivers as not holding a cell phone to their ear, if not holding one in their hand while texting and driving at the same time. It doesn’t matter where you are—driving down the Turnpike, walking through a shopping mall or the grocery store, or a baseball or soccer game, or somewhere else—it is common to see people either talking into or looking at their cell phone.
And then another technological innovation that has changed the world in the past 10 years is Facebook. According to this weekend’s USA Today, the number of people worldwide connected to Facebook is approaching 1 billion. Think about that—1 billion people (or 1 in every 7 persons living on this planet) will soon be a Facebook user. On average around 300 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day. Facebook is available in more than 70 languages. Just as many of us are constantly monitoring our cell phones, others are constantly monitoring or posting on their Facebook page, telling all their friends how their day is going and reading about the daily—in some cases hourly—happenings of all their Facebook friends. So, the cell phone and Facebook, two technological innovations that have drastically changed our world. And, by the way, most people can and do access their Facebook page via their cell phone.
There is one thing that these two life-changing innovations have in common. And that is connection. One of the primary reasons that people cling to their cell phones and commune with their Facebook page is the sense of connection that these innovations give them with others. Connecting with others has never been easier than it is right now. You can send an email via your cell phone to a friend or family member while you wait at the doctor’s office. If you don’t want to wait for an email to go through, you can send an instant text message which may be read and responded to much quicker. And that high school or college friend that you were close to but lost touch with when he or she moved halfway across the country,or when you moved halfway across the country? Why, you can reconnect and stay connected via your postings on Facebook. The fascination with and addiction to these two technological innovations, I am convinced, is all about connection.
There is an innate human need and desire to be and feel connected. The writer of the first book of the Bible realized this when in the creation story he had God say, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). The way we are created is to be in community; to feel a part; to be connected. Except for a few rare individuals whose genetic makeup or hard wiring causes them to be anti-social and unable to live with others, this is true for the human species and many animal species as well. We long for, we crave togetherness, community, connectedness.
Jesus felt this need for connectedness as well. There are a number of stories in the gospels about Jesus going to the home of his close friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus. These three friends provided Jesus with the closeness, human companionship, the connection that he so desperately needed. All of us are like that.
And in his account of the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples, Luke records Jesus saying, “I have wanted so much to eat this Passover meal with you before I suffer.” According to tradition, out of this Passover meal emerged the practice of Communion as we know and celebrate it today. As the bread was passed and broken, and the common chalice of wine was passed and shared, there was a closeness, an intimacy, a sense of fellowship, a spiritual connection present around that table that Jesus needed and those disciples would later learn to appreciate much more than they realized that evening.
And when we here at the United Church celebrate Communion or Table Fellowship, a similar kind of closeness, intimacy, fellowship, and connection is present here. This is one time each month, perhaps, when a sense of fellowship, closeness, and connection is the greatest. The time when members are eager to help other members who are unsteady on their feet down to the communion rail and back to their seats. A time when members of different ages—young and not so you—and different socio economic status, or different political sympathies kneel or stand side by side at the communion rail becoming equals. Communion is the big equalizer, where all join and stand together on equal ground. Barriers are broken down as we all share the same bread and the same cup, and then as we all join hands to sing together the Lord’s Prayer. That one thing—the joining of hands and singing the Lord’s Prayer—was one of the things that impressed me most when I came here to preach my trial sermon four and one half years ago. It told me that there is a togetherness, a closeness, in this congregation. If Communion speaks of anything, it speaks of a spiritual connection, a sense of connectedness that most of us crave.
Speaking of Communion, and as a humorous aside, there was the little girl who came forward to receive Communion and said to the minister, “I want some of the body, but not the blood.” (She didn’t like grape juice.)
On a more serious note, the first Sunday of October was set aside by the National Council of Churches some 72 years ago as World Communion Sunday, an ecumenical day to remind us that we are not just connected to each other locally in a local church. But we are connected with all who claim the name Christian and gather to break bread and share the cup. So as we celebrate the sense of fellowship and connectedness that we enjoy here, we also are reminded to hold close in our thoughts and prayers Christians the world over who struggle under poverty, persecution, dictatorships, violence and war, natural disasters such severe drought, and other problems. Yes, Communion speaks of connection; not just our local connection, but also a broader connection to our wider world. Theologian and spiritual director Henri Nouwen said, “In community we discover what it means to let go of our self-will and to really live for others” (Spiritual Direction, 114). So Communion helps to remind us that “we do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves.” We live in fellowship with others. And when it comes time to die, hopefully we will die in fellowship with others. But while we live, there is the need to be connected, and there is the need for us to serve others and for others to serve us.
Well, cell phones and Facebook may be contemporary manifestations of the human need to always feel connected. But the need for connection is nothing new. It has been part and parcel of human nature from the beginning. We all need to feel that we belong; that we are part of a loving, caring community; that we are connected with others and with something spiritual and Sacred and much bigger than ourselves. And Communion and churches or religious communities like this United Church help meet that need, that longing, that desire to be connected. And that is something you can’t find on Facebook. Amen.