We are nourished by Holy Communion

Written by Joel on June 6th, 2011

Scene from Grand Caverns in Virginia

May 22, 2011
Fifth Sunday of Easter
1 Peter 2:2-10

You are living stones. What a strange image: living stones. When I think of a stone, I first imagine a boulder, like those large landscape rocks people put in their front yard for decoration. Maybe they found it while they were digging the foundation and just kept it. This large stone has been around for a very long time, much longer than anyone I know. And it will remain there, so long as no one moves it. It will be that large, unchanging, constant presence for as long as any of us can imagine. So, what makes a living stone? How are we living stones?

Life moves, life grows, life consumes, life changes, life matures, and life ends. All the while, life needs nourished. We are living stones. How do these two go together – living stones?

Here in Virginia, we have some quite literal examples of living stones. We have a number of active (that is, growing) caverns right here in the Shenandoah Valley: Luray, Endless, Grand, Shenandoah, just to name a few. If you’ve ever been in one of the local caverns you realize very quickly that the place is alive – by all the drops of water you catch on your head. Those little tiny drops of water carry dissolved minerals in them and as the water percolates down through the ground to the cave below, it leaves the minerals behind, decorating the cavern. It’s a slow process, growing only a cubic inch in 120 years. It’s slow, but you can see the growth – stalactites from above just barely reaching stalagmites from below, wavy curtains of rock indicating that the source of water has slowly moved over the years, and “baby” soda straws – those relatively young, hallow stalactites which are only a few inches long. A cavern is very much like a living stone. Rock building upon rock, self sustaining. A slow but steady growth nourished by the waters above. We are living stones.

The church through the ages is a living stone. The church gains members in two ways: birth and adoption. Children might be born into the church, raised and nourished in the faith by their parents and faith community. Or people are brought into the family of God – adoption. When new members enter the church, it is not an individual experience. New Christians are added to the spiritual house which has been built upon the cornerstone of Christ for two thousand years. Just as in the cavern, where rock is built upon rock, we are built upon each other, built upon Christ. Just as in the cavern, the new deposits of rock become the structure itself; We are built upon the Christians who came before us in this spiritual house. Their hopes, desires, their faith is passed on to us through the ages, and they never die – they are living stones who shape our faith today, and we in turn shape the faith of those who will be born and adopted into our spiritual house of living stones which we call the church. We, as modern Christians, become part of this spiritual house – building one another up, being built up by Christ; decorating the life of the church with each of our unique gifts; nourishing one another, being nourished by Christ.

At times, because we only have but a glimpse of our whole Christian story, growth my be imperceptible, but growth is there. At times, in each of our lives, it may not feel as though we are growing much spiritually. Growth begins with a desire; a desire for the slow and steady nourishment of living stones.

Just as the living stones of the caverns need constant nourishment – the mineral water from from above; we – the living stones of the spiritual house need constant nourishment from the cornerstone of our Lord. We need to be nourished.

We may understand nourishment in a figurative sense – we are nourished by the reading of his word, by prayer, by worship, by song, by good deeds, by offering, yes by all these things we are nourished.

This is one of the reasons why we celebrate Holy Communion so frequently this Easter season: It is nourishment. In a figurative sense: Its an opportunity to recall Christ’s saving work for us, to confess our sins, to reconcile with our neighbor, to give thanksgiving, and many other spiritual goods. But it is literal nourishment as well. This is real bread, and real drink; real food. When you receive, you really eat Holy Communion; your body consumes and uses it. Just as rock is built upon rock, Christ feds us, Christ becomes part of us, Christ nourishes us.

The apostle Peter writes to the entire church “crave pure spiritual milk” just like newborn babies. By it you will grow up in your salvation. You have tasted that the Lord is good.

Newborns seem to have an insatiable craving for milk, when babies are very young they eat every two hours day and night! Could you imagine eating every two hours? Or even having an indescribable, intense desire for some need so frequently? Could you imagine only eating once every couple of months? Could you imagine a Christian with a lack of desire for spiritual nourishment from our Lord, the cornerstone?

Babies don’t understand what is going on, all they know is that they are in need. I am amazed at how much a baby can grow on just simple milk. And Christ gave us a simple meal – bread and wine, spiritual and literal nourishment. He didn’t say “take and understand;” “take and argue about;” “take and explain;” he commands us “take and eat,” because he wants first of all to feed us – body and soul. Christ nourishes us at his table, and we just might be surprised at how much Christians can grow, being fed on a diet of bread and wine.

Christ is our rock, our cornerstone, our nourishment. Come and be fed at his table


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