Welcome and Announcements
Thank you for joining us today as we celebrate communion and the 220th anniversary in-person. For the online service, we will simply follow the regular format without communion.
We would like to thank all those who have made great effort in providing lunch. It is a great joy for all of us to be together and enjoy this wonderful time of celebration and fellowship.
As we begin to reopen our activities our efforts will be on reaching out in ways that we and our neighbours will mutually benefit as we grow together in faith, hope, and love. Up until now, our focus was on extending the love of Christ to all. We tried our best to meet and serve those who are in need. Starting this spring, we will change the focus to share the gospel of Christ so that we will be able to witness Christ in this place with joy and peace.
We are beginning a different way of trying to sustain and nurture the church here in Niagara Falls. We are preparing to start a new ministry focused on younger generations. Please pray. We will continue to inform you of our plans and activities.
Preparation Shine Jesus shine
Call to Worship (Psalm 63:1-7)
Miniter: O God, you are my God,
All: I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Minister: So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on your name.
All: My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips when I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
Hymn We are God’s people
What a wonderful God you are! In Christ you called us into being. In Christ you recreated us as your people to share in your grace. On this day, we bring our joy and thanksgiving to you, O God. On this day, we come with anticipation for your Son’s presence as he feeds our spirits by bread and wine as visible symbols of your invisible grace. How blessed we are in your presence this day.
Come to us and be present with us. May the Word become flesh and dwell among us! Cleanse us through this holy communion.
In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 23-26
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for* you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Sermon: visible symbols of invisible grace
Communion along with baptism are considered to be these visible symbols that we experience, benefit, and nourish from. They remind Christ’s presence among us in ways words and thoughts cannot. For those who follow Christ, communion in particular is the most essential sacrament that continually feeds and matures us spiritually. It is this work of the Spirit we welcome, crave, and rejoice in as we follow Christ each day.
What is our understanding of communion? Why do we do it?
First and foremost, in communion we remember Jesus. We remember Jesus not only as our Lord who lived in the land of Palestine over two thousand years ago, but as the living one who is with us today. This remembrance focuses our faith on him as the living Lord. As he offers himself to us, we present ourselves to him in worship and adoration. This living remembrance is what is at the very heart of our faith.
This living memory does not simply reside in the past, but is continuing in our reality today. As we remember, Christ’s presence becomes real not only in our thoughts, but also in our daily lives. We become part of living memory that leads our history to become part of the salvation history of God. In this way the Word becomes flesh among us and dwells with us. This living memorial, communion, is the reminder of Christ’s living presence with us.
Also communion is far more than a simple moment of remembrance. In this communion, our understanding is that Christ places his table in this world to feed and bless his people. This particular understanding of communion is something we often do not think about. It is Christ who places the table in the world. It is there for everyone, especially those who belong to Christ and are hungry and thirsty. All his people are fed at his table. This symbolic act of setting the table to feed his people in the midst of the troubled world ought to make us think about where we ought to be.
Imagine for a moment. There are wars in Yemen, Syria, Sudan, and Ukraine. We have been inundated with the war that is taking place in Ukraine. Think, however, how powerful it is as a symbol of life in the wars where death has its power, seeing Christ setting tables in Yemen, Syria, Sudan, and Ukraine in the battle fields to bring life to all those who are desperate to flee the power of death all around them. This is what it means for us to not only remember, but to realise what communion is all about. It is Christ placing his table in this death filled world to give life to all whose lives are about to be taken away.
This table in the middle of the troubled city, village, field, or road unites those who come to sit at the table to be fed. By being drawn to the table, they experience the work of the Holy Spirit who unites them as they receive the bread and wine, the very symbols of life that are from God. As they receive and eat, they share in the body and blood of Christ. They are not just Ukrainians, but also Yemenis, Syrians, Sudaneses as well as those who face oppressions of every kind. They are so united by the Holy Spirit as one in Christ. Communion is the very present symbol of life in the middle of dying and suffering people.
There is also joy in gathering around the Table of the Lord even in the midst of wars. It is a moment of peace, togetherness-solidarity, and respite. This fleeting moment is the eternal breaking into the grim and dark reality. As the Lord’s Supper, the joyful mystery is given to all who sit at the Lord’s table and sup with him. This joyful mystery is, indeed, life-giving because Jesus takes the bread and wine to represent his atoning sacrifice. This is something we do not need to understand, but something to enjoy as the gift of life from God to all those who are burdened and are heavily laden.
Can joy be possible in troubled times when so many are losing homes, suffering on streets, living without homes, and spending more time searching for food than seeking God? When everything in our world reminds us of the power of death, can there be joy? To this question, the Lord’s Supper is the resounding “YES” to all those who are sad, troubled, tearful, and in despair. Our Lord invites us to this supper, all prepared through his atoning sacrifice on the cross and was risen from the dead. The Lord’s Supper is the proclamation of God’s salvation of this world and all therein until he comes again. It is a symbol of hope for a troubled age. All who eat of the bread and drink of the wine rejoice in this joyful mystery leading to life.
No wonder we call communion “Eucharist'' (Thanksgiving). It is the Holy Spirit giving thanks. It is also our thanksgiving to God. God through Christ gave us life, with gratitude we offer our lives to God.This thanksgiving is also our prayer for the world we are lifting up to God. In this prayer we celebrate Jesus’ victory over death and anticipate the joyous feast which is the life eternal. It is our way of confidently entrusting our future in God’s hand. In faith we come to believe and know that our lives are only possible under God’s reign. We may live each day in the world, surrounded by the power of death, but we share our lives as ones who live under God’s reign alone. No worldly power can interrupt our lives under God’s reign. Through Christ’s death and resurrection we are made his now and always. That is, from the moment of baptism we live under God’s reign.
As citizens of God’s kingdom our loyalty is to Christ. Each time we come to the Lord’s Table we are pledging our allegiance to Christ as Lord. This is an important thing to remember. We are not simply guests attending feasts. We are Christ’s people who come to be fed by Christ as one church. In receiving the bread and wine, we receive these signs of love. Our presence, then, is more than a simple experience of pleasure on our part. It is our commitment to be his people, witnessing, proclaiming, and sharing Christ’s good news with the world around us. This is the way we show our gratitude for what God has done for us.
This is why regular administration of the sacrament of communion is so important. As a visible symbol of the invisible grace of God, it marks us when we come gladly to make a memorial of Jesus in totality. To directly quote the Living Faith, “Those who belong to Christ come gladly to his table to make memorial of his life and death, to celebrate his presence, and together as his church offer him thanks.”
One additional understanding is that communion by nature is communal. At the table is not just a person, but his people. It is the church, Christ together with his people, at the Lord’s Table. This is why the entire church comes to the table in repentance, humility, and humbleness, ready to be fed, refreshed, and reconciled. We, as the body of Christ, come because of what Christ has done for us through his death and resurrection. We come to be made as one. As many different individuals we come and by the communion we are made one. God’s love is extended to the whole, not just to a few worthy individuals with merits.
Without communion all these thoughts remain as nothing more than wisdoms of ages. Bread we take and wine we drink are simply food for physical bodies. Without making a memorial of Christ, bread we take and wine we drink are nothing more than things that sustain us for our earthly life. It is when we gather at the Lord’s Table and remember Jesus, bread and wine feed our spirit in ways that we participate in the Holy Communion, Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist in which Christ offers himself to us and we present ourselves to him.
For over two years, we have missed being one in Christ in this symbolic way. Today we remember him in ways that truly through our worship and adoration we present ourselves to him as he offers himself to us. By the bread and wine we once again experience the living Lord.
For 220 years, God has provided, protected, nurtured and blessed us. By communion we witness to ourselves and to the world God’s immense grace. God is worthy of our praise and worship. Christ is our foundation and cornerstone. The Holy Spirit is our sustainer and guide.
Receive our thanksgiving. We come full of joy in this world of sadness and troubles. While the world seeks wars instead of peace, we come to glorify and enjoy you. Receive our prayer.
For your grace, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and reconciliation, we give you thanks. As sinners, we have no hope. In Christ, as sinners, we are called, forgiven, and reconciled. You graciously remind us of your infinite love through this communion. We thank you.
Focus us, o Holy Spirit, on things that are from you. May the Word become the Living Word pointing us to the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Set us free in you. Shape us with and instil in us the love that is from you. Give us strength to share love in ways that all may see your glory in this world, especially in Ukraine, Yemen, Syria, Palestine, Sudan, Somalia, and everywhere where people suffer and are facing death. Make us your servants to bring the Life that is Christ to all.
Receive our thanks for all you have done in our past. Remind us of those countless people who served you in this congregation doing their best to witness you in this city. Give us insight to build on the foundation that has been laid down for 220 years so that we may continue to witness, proclaim, and build your kingdom with faith, hope, and love. Bless those who are still here together, one with Christ, carrying on your will.
Guide us by opening our hearts, minds, eyes, and ears to your will. Lead us in ways that we become your people who ceaselessly love your creation. May you be glorified through all that we will do in this very place.
All these and more, we pray in your Son’s name. Amen.
Hymn Christ is made a sure foundation
Through gifts to Presbyterians Sharing, The Presbyterian Church in Canada is able to support many important outreach ministries associated with Cyclical PCC, a church planting support initiative. One such ministry is Cornerstone Ministries. Cornerstone Ministries provides Christian hope and healing through innovative and supportive practices to struggling single moms and families in the Dunnville area of Ontario. Since moving most of their ministry work online, many more people have been positively impacted by Cornerstone. Through outreach, counselling and practical support, over 200 local families have come to know the God who loves them, helping them to blossom in faith, courage and wholeness.
Hymn In Christ there is no east or west