Admission to Holy Communion of Emilie Brown, Daniel Rushby and Edward Spiers
Readings 1 Corinthians 11.23–26, John 6.51–58
Preacher Canon Robert Titley
Knowledge and wisdom. In our First Communion sessions we have tried to pick up a bit of both. Knowledge first. Edward, Daniel and Emilie have worked hard to get ready for today, so here’s some work for the rest of you. Questions [answers below]…
1. The hippopotamus is related to which farm animal?
2. Napoleon was a great figure in the early 19th century, but is usually thought have been pretty short. How tall was he?
3. Would it be more hygienic to kiss the person next to you, or to shake their hand?
General knowledge – good to have, but it’s not everything. Brian O’Driscoll, controversially dropped from the Lions for yesterday’s match against Australia (but no harm done in the end), recently said, ‘Knowledge and wisdom are not the same: knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.’ We did a good bit of knowledge stuff in our group, but we also tried to understand things deep down, to know why they matter. We learned about how Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt (we watched a great film, The Prince of Egypt) and how every year Jewish families have a special meal to remember it. We tasted some of the special food they eat, and discovered that food can be more than just food. The Passover meal includes bitter herbs (we used horseradish sauce) – that bitter taste, that’s slavery – and also sweet stuff (we used honey) – that’s the taste of freedom.
Food can be more than just food. On the night before Jesus died, he had a Passover meal with his friends, and he took things a stage further. As St Paul tells us, he took a piece of bread, broke it and said, ‘This is me. This is what’s going to happen to me. You do it, to remember me.’
You can learn all about this, but you need to understand deep down, that this is how Jesus feeds us. John’s gospel describes Jesus saying something strange: ‘Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will live in me and I will live in them.’ What he’s saying to us here is this:
Whenever you share bread and wine like I did with my friends at that last supper, I’ll be there; so when you eat the bread and drink the wine you’ll be taking my life into your life.
And because Jesus is the Word made flesh, that means sharing in the life of God.
This doesn’t only last for an hour on a Sunday. Jesus doesn’t say, ‘I’ll visit you,’ or ‘I’ll hang out with you for a bit;’ he says, ‘I will live in you.’ Long after this service has ended, tomorrow when you’re at school or work or going to the doctor’s, the life of Jesus will be living in you just as much then as now. And if the life of Jesus is part of your life, if you and I are sharing in the life of God, then – no matter what this week may hold – you and I will be strong enough to face anything.
It’s never too late to let God begin to feed you in this way. If, when you see these three young people receive communion for the first time, you think, ‘I need to start doing that,’ then have a word afterwards. It’s never too late, but it’s good to start early, so it’s wonderful that Daniel and Emilie and Hugh are about to receive the Holy Communion today, near the very start of their journey of faith.
2. 1.68m, 5ft 5in – a good average height for the early 1800s.
3. Kiss – worth bearing in mind when sharing the Peace.