Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

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0030. Bible Study on Holy Communion In The United Methodist Church

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Video from the United Methodist "Opening Ourselves To Grace" series about the sacrament of Holy Communion

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Note to self:
The following video has some good points. If used make sure to explain how Catholic understanding of transubstantiation is different from our Methodist understanding of the Holy Communion

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Plan and outline for teaching a four-session Bible Study on the subject of Holy Communion in the United Methodist church

 

Bible Study – Session # 1

Opening Prayer

Introductions

Short Lecture:

There are two sacraments in The United Methodist Church: Baptism and Holy Communion. These sacraments are channels that conduct [or bring] God’s grace to the faithful. We can also think of sacraments as a means of open access to God’s grace. Sacraments are instituted by and rooted in the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

{{{{
Illustration from my personal practice of ministry – CPE story of the Holy Communion.

The point of the illustration is:
The Sacrament brought renewal and wholeness because there is a mysterious and gracious presence of God in the Sacrament. In this illustration, the Sacrament brought with it reconciliation and a spirit of cooperation and understanding.
}}}}

Scripture Reading:

Read Matthew 26:26-30 – The Last Supper.

Read Mark 14:22-26 – The Last Supper.

Read Luke 22:17-20 – The Last Supper.

Discussion: What is a Sacrament?

Definition: A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace. It is one of the solemn Christian rites considered to have been instituted by Jesus Christ to symbolize or confer grace.

Through the sacraments, God discloses things that are beyond human capacity to know and understand through reason alone   (This Holy Mystery, 7).

Explain that The United Methodist Church has two sacraments; baptism and Holy Communion.

  • Baptism is a one-time event. Occasionally, a person may reaffirm his or her baptism, but we do not re-baptize persons.
  • Sacrament of Holy Communion is a practice that is meant to be observed over and over throughout the life of a Christian. It is a holy time of worship when we come together as one body to remember and celebrate what Jesus did for us in the past and a way of encountering the living Christ in our present.

Discussion: What happens during the sacrament?

Scripture Reading – Read Luke 24:13-35 – The Road to Emmaus story.

Discussion: What happened in the story?

Short Lecture:

Christians recognized Jesus Christ in the breaking of the bread. The traditional Jewish practice of taking bread, blessing it, thanking God, and breaking and sharing the bread took a new meaning for them. When followers of Christ gathered in Jesus’ name, the breaking of bread and sharing of the cup was a means of remembering his life, death and resurrection and of encountering the living Christ   (This Holy Mystery, 4).

Discussion: How do you recognize Jesus in your lives?

As an illustration, at Peniel UMC in 1998, I struggled with my sense of call.  After Holy Communion I was at the altar rail praying. It is important to note that my wife Debbie and I were camping at Lums Pond. Judy T., a Stephen Minister, saw and sensed my distress. That evening she showed up at the campground to talk to me. God sent deep sleep upon Debbie so that when the Stephen Minister came into the campground around 7:00 P.M. that beautiful summer evening, Debbie was sound asleep and did not know about the visit until the next morning. I believe that the Holy Spirit sent the Stephen Minister to talk to me that evening. As we sat by the campfire, she helped me discern some feelings and emotions, reflect on some experiences, and answer some questions with which I was struggling.

Prayer Requests and Closing Prayer

Bible Study – Session # 2

Opening Prayer

Scripture Reading – Read 1 Corinthians 11:23-32.

Discussion:  What did we learn from this reading?

Short Lecture:

The Greek word used in the early church for sacrament is mysterion, usually translated as mystery. That implies that through sacraments, God discloses understandings and meaning that are beyond human capacity to know through reason alone.

The Latin word used by the early church is sacramentum which means a vow or a promise. That implies that through sacraments God keeps a promise to us.

Note for future use of this Bible Study:

God’s promise to God’s human children is found in Jeremiah 7:23, " … I will be your God and you will be my people." It is also echoed in Exodus 6:7, Jeremiah 11:4, Jeremiah 30:22 and Ezekiel 36:28. 

Holy Communion is a sacrament that sustains and nourishes us on our journey of salvation, on our journey towards perfection, and on our journey as we walk alongside God. In a sacrament God uses tangible, material things (bread and juice) as vehicles or instruments of grace. John Wesley taught that sacraments (baptism and Holy Communion) are “outward signs of inward grace,” and a means of receiving that grace. In other words, the sacrament of Holy Communion is an experience of God’s grace. God’s unconditional love makes the table of God’s grace accessible to all.

The Articles of Religion

The Articles of Religion are the official doctrinal statement of The United Methodist Church. The Articles were adopted at a conference in 1784 and are found in paragraph 103 of The United Methodist Church Book of Discipline (BOD). They have remained relatively unchanged since 1808 (save for a few additional articles added in later years). Article XVIII deals with the sacrament of Holy Communion and is titled, “Of The Lord’s Supper.” 

Following is the text of this article [underlines are added for emphasis and to facilitate discussion]:

The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another, but rather is a sacrament of our redemption by Christ’s death; insomuch that, to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith receive the same, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ; and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ.

Transubstantiation, or the change of the substance of bread and wine in the Supper of our Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ, but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.

The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper, only after a heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is faith.

The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not by Christ’s ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshiped (BOD, 64).

Discussion: What did we learn from the Articles of Religion about Holy Communion?

Discussion: What is transubstantiation?

Discussion: How do we receive Holy Communion?

  • There are many ways to receive Holy Communion: kneeling at the altar, breaking the bread, taking a small cup, and by intinction (dipping the bread into the juice or wine and thus offering both simultaneously to the person).
  • The United Methodist Church only uses unfermented grape juice. We may use either unleavened or leavened bread.
  • There are even churches that gather together in cyberspace, and Holy Communion is celebrated on-line  (http://www.revneal.org/).

Note for future use of this Bible Study:

The last point resulted in a long discussion in our group. The main issue that was brought up was the fact that cyberspace challenges the traditional definition of a community and sharing "one cup" and "one loaf." The Rev. Dr. Greg Neal (author of the Grace Incarnate Ministries website) is an elder in The United Methodist Church serving St. Stephen United Methodist Church in Mesquite, TX.

The Meaning of Holy Communion

In the New Testament at least six major ideas about Holy Communion are present: thanksgiving, fellowship, remembrance, sacrifice, action of the Holy Spirit, and eschatology  (This Holy Mystery, 8).

 

Act of Thanksgiving –  Read Acts 2:46-47.

"Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved"  ( Acts 2:46 NIV, emphasis added for purposes of discussion.)

As we commune, we express joyful thanks for God’s mighty acts throughout history – for creation, covenant, redemption, and sanctification.  The Great Thanksgiving  (UMH, 9-10) reminds us of this salvation history, culminating in the work of Jesus Christ and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. It conveys our gratitude for the goodness of God and God’s unconditional love for us  (This Holy Mystery, 8).

Fellowship -  Read 1 Corinthians 10:16-17.

Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf (1 Corinthians 10:16 NIV, emphasis added for purposes of discussion).

Holy Communion is the communion of the church — the gathered community of the faithful, both local and universal. While deeply meaningful to the individuals participating, the sacrament is much more than a personal event. The first person pronouns throughout the ritual are consistently plural — we, us, and our.

1 Corinthians 10:17 explains that "because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread." "A Service of Word and Table I" uses this text as an explicit statement of Christian unity in the body of Christ (United Methodist Hymnal [UMH], page 11). The sharing and bonding experienced at the Table exemplify the nature of the church and model the world as God would have it be.

 

Remembrance – Read Luke 22:19 and 1 Corinthians 11:24-25.

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me"   (Luke 22:19 NIV, emphasis added for purposes of discussion.)

… and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me"  (1 Corinthians 11:24  NIV, emphasis added for purposes of discussion.)

Holy Communion is remembrance, commemoration, and memorial, but this remembrance is much more than simply intellectual recalling. "Do this in remembrance of me"  (Luke 22:19;  1 Corinthians 11:24-25) is sometimes referred to as “anamnesis” (the biblical Greek word meaning the recollection or remembrance of the past; reminiscence or reenactment). This dynamic action becomes re-presentation of past gracious acts of God in the present so powerfully as to make them truly present now. Christ is risen and is alive here and now, not just remembered for what was done in the past  (This Holy Mystery, 8).

Sacrifice – Read Hebrews 9:26, Romans 12:1, and 1 Peter 2:5.

Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself  (Hebrews 9:26 NIV, emphasis added for purposes of discussion).

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God– this is your spiritual act of worship   (Romans 12:1, emphasis added for purposes of discussion).


… you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ   (1 Peter 2:5, emphasis added for purposes of discussion).

Holy Communion is a type of sacrifice. It is a representation, not a repetition, of the sacrifice of Christ. Hebrews 9:26 makes clear that "he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself." Christ’s atoning life, death, and resurrection make divine grace available to us (Atonement is the doctrine that deals with the reconciliation of God and God’s human children that was accomplished through the life, suffering, and death of Jesus Christ.) We also present ourselves as sacrifice in union with Christ (Romans 12:1; 1 Peter 2:5) to be used by God in the work of redemption, reconciliation, and justice. In the Great Thanksgiving, the church prays: "We offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving as a holy and living sacrifice, in union with Christ’s offering for us . . ."  (UMH; page 10) (This Holy Mystery, 8-9).

Vehicle of Grace – Read Acts 1:8 and John 14:26.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth  (Acts 1:8 NIV, emphasis added for purposes of discussion).

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you  (John 14:26 NIV , emphasis added for purposes of discussion).

Holy Communion is a vehicle of God’s grace through the action of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8), whose work is described in John 14:26: "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you." The epiclesis (biblical Greek meaning "calling upon") is the part of the Great Thanksgiving that calls the Spirit (This Holy Mystery, 9): "Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, and on these gifts of bread and wine" (UMH, 10). The church asks God to "make them be for us the body and blood of Christ, that we may be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood. By your Spirit make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world . . ."  (UMH, 10).

Eschatology – Read Matt 26:29, Mark 14:25, Luke 22:18, Matthew 22:1-14, and
                        Revelation 19:9; 21:1-7.

I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom  (Matthew 26: 29 NIV).

I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God  ( Mark 14:25).

For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes"  (Luke 22:18 NIV).

Then the angel said to me, "Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’" And he added, "These are the true words of God"  (Revelation 19:9).

Holy Communion is eschatological, meaning that it has to do with the end of history and the outcome of God’s purpose for the world; "Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again"  (UMH; page 10). We commune not only with the faithful who are physically present but also with the saints of the past who join us in the Sacrament. To participate is to receive a foretaste of the future, a pledge of heaven "until Christ comes in final victory and we feast at his heavenly banquet"  (UMH, page 10). Christ himself looked forward to this occasion and promised the disciples, "I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom"  (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18). When we eat and drink at the Table, we become partakers of the divine nature in this life and for life eternal  (John 6:47-58; Revelation 3:20). We are anticipating the heavenly banquet celebrating God’s victory over sin, evil, and death  (Matthew 22:1-14; Revelation 19:9; 21:1-7). In the midst of the personal and systemic brokenness in which we live, we yearn for everlasting fellowship with Christ and ultimate fulfillment of the divine plan. Nourished by sacramental grace, we strive to be formed into the image of Christ and to be made instruments for transformation in the world.

Sacramental Life

Spiritual benefits of the Holy Communion are: forgiveness, spiritual nourishment, emotional healing, personal transformation, eternal life, as well as a clear understanding of personal and communal ministry and mission (This Holy Mystery, 9).

 

Invitation

Invitation is followed by the confession of personal and communal sin as revealed in 1 John 1:9.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness  (1 John 1:9 NIV).

Absolution ("In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!")

Some Thoughts. The Christian life is a challenging and arduous journey. To continue living faithfully and growing in holiness require constant sustenance. God makes such sustenance available through the sacrament of Holy Communion. In John 6:35, Jesus tells the crowd: "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." As we return to the Table again and again, we are strengthened repeatedly.

As we encounter Christ in Holy Communion, we are repeatedly touched by divine grace; we are progressively shaped into Christ’s image. It is not done in a moment; it is a lifelong process through which God shapes us into people motivated by love, empowered and impassioned to do Christ’s work in the world.

Through Eucharist (another word for the sacrament of Holy Communion), we receive healing and are given strength and inspiration to help in the healing of others. Much of this healing is spiritual. It includes the healing of our thoughts and emotions, of our minds and bodies, and of our attitudes and relationships. The grace received at the Table of the Lord can make us whole.

The grace we receive at the Lord’s Table enables us to perform our ministry and mission, to continue his work in the world — the work of redemption, reconciliation, peace, and justice  (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). As we commune, we become aware of the worth and the needs of other people and are reminded of our responsibility. We express the compassion of Christ through acts of caring and kindness toward those we encounter in our daily lives.

The loving God meets us at the Table and gives us the gift of eternal life. It is not only the promise of our being with Christ after physical death, but it is also our being in dynamic loving relationship with Jesus here and now. It is life that never ends because it is grounded in the everlasting love of God who comes to us in the sacraments  (This Holy Mystery, 9-10).

Prayer Requests and Closing Prayer

Bible Study -  Session # 3

Opening Prayer

Scripture Reading

Read Acts 2:46.

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts …  (Acts 2:46 NIV).

Read Luke 22:19.

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me"  (Luke 22:19 NIV).

Read 1 Corinthians 11:24-25.

… and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me"  (1 Corinthians 11:24-25 NIV).

Short Lecture. Shultz writes in his on-line article,

The resurrection and Pentecost kindled the disciples with the divine knowledge that the gift of Jesus’ death conveyed by the supper was eternal life. So convinced was the early Christian community of the essential value of Holy Communion for their life and faith that the records are filled with its practice in Christian martyrdom. At one time in this history the Christians were forced with the decision to say, "I confess," or apostatize. For the "Confessors" who awaited execution in the imperial prisons, the Church Fathers took it for granted that Holy Communion must be smuggled in and practiced insofar as possible. Cyprian arranged such a service for the elder Lucian, lying with his legs wrenched wide apart in the stocks of the prison at Antioch, celebrated Holy Communion for the last time as best he could, with the elements resting on his own beaten breast. He celebrated with his condemned companions lying equally helpless in the dark around him. On the evening of March 6, A.D. 203, at a prison in Charthage, the martyrs of the next day, Perpetua and Felicitas, and their companions, were given a free meal by the authorities. This meal they converted as far as possible into an Agape [love-feast] meal.

Likewise on the day before the games, when at the last feast which they call Free they made (as far as they might) not a Free Feast but a Love Feast, with like hardihood they cast these words at the people; threatening the judgment of the Lord, witnessing to the felicity of their passion, setting at naught the curiosity of those that ran together. And Saturus said: Is not tomorrow sufficient for you? Why do you favorably behold that which you hate? You are friends today, foes tomorrow. Yet mark our faces diligently, that you may know us again on that day. So they began all to go away thence astonished; of whom many believed  (The Passion, 17).

Shultz continues: “Holy Communion was the first consideration of the Christian and the Church in times of persecution and imprisonment. To the early Christians, Holy Communion was more precious than their lives. Holy Communion was their ultimate concern because their hope of eternal life was in remembrance of Him who loved them and gave Himself for them . . . . St. Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria, wrote:

At first they drove us out, and alone we kept our festival [Communion] at that time also, persecuted and put to death by all; and every single spot where we were afflicted became to us a place of assembly for the feast [Communion] – field, desert, ship, inn, prison; but the brightest of all festivals was kept by the perfect martyrs, when they feasted in heaven  (Shultz).

Discussion: What does the Holy Communion mean to our story, to who we are?

Discussion: The Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

Jesus Christ, who "is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being"  (Hebrews 1:3), is truly present in Holy Communion. Through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, God meets us at the Table. God, who has given the sacraments to the church, acts in and through Holy Communion. Christ is present through the community gathered in Jesus’ name  (Matthew 18:20), through the Word proclaimed and enacted, and through the elements of bread and wine shared  (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). The divine presence is a living reality and can be experienced by participants; it is not a remembrance of the Last Supper and the Crucifixion only  (This Holy Mystery,10-13).

Some additional points:

  • Christ’s presence in the sacrament is a promise to the church.
  • Christ’s presence in the sacrament is not dependent upon recognition of this presence by individual members of the congregation.
  • Holy Communion always offers grace.
    Note for future use of this Bible Study: In the future use of this Bible Study make it clear that in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, we experience all forms of grace (prevenient, justifying and sanctifying grace).
  • We are reminded of what God has done for us in the past, experience what God is doing now as we partake, and anticipate what God will do in the future work of salvation.
  • We anticipate joining the feast at the heavenly banquet table  (Luke 22:14-18; Revelation 19:9).

Discussion: Christ is calling each one of us individually.

Point Number 1: The invitation to the Table comes from the risen and present Jesus Christ. Holy Communion is a gift of God to the church and an act of the community of faith. When we respond to the invitation, we affirm and deepen our personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ and our commitment to membership and mission in the body of Christ – the Church.

Point Number 2: All who respond in faith to the invitation are to be welcomed. Holy Baptism [usually] or [normally] precedes partaking of Holy Communion; however, if a person who was not baptized is led by to the Communion Table by the Holy Spirit, he/she is welcomed to partake of the sacrament. Holy Communion is a meal of the community who are in covenantal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Few other discussion points related to Point Number 2:

Baptism is the sign of the new covenant  (Genesis 17:9-14; Exodus 24:1-12; Jeremiah 31:31; Romans 6:1-11; Hebrews 9:15). Baptism is the non-repeatable rite of initiation into the body of Christ while the Lord’s Supper is the regularly repeated celebration of communion of the body of Christ.

In the early church those who were not baptized were not admitted to the celebration of the Holy Communion.

The Didache – CHAPTER 9  – THE THANKSGIVING SACRAMENT (written between 50 and 120 CE)

1)     Now concerning the Thanksgiving meal, give thanks in this manner. 

2)      First, concerning the cup
We thank You, our Father,
For the Holy Vine of David Your servant,
Whom You made known to us through Your Servant;
May the glory be Yours forever.
3) Concerning the broken bread:
We thank You, our Father,
For the life and knowledge
Which You made known to us through Your Servant;
May the glory be Yours forever.
As this broken bread was scattered over the mountains,
And was gathered together to become one,
So let Your Body of Faithful be gathered together
From the ends of the earth into Your kingdom;
for the glory and power are Yours forever.
5) But let no one eat or drink of your Thanksgiving, unless they have been baptized; for concerning this is taught, "Do not give what is holy to dogs"   (Didache, emphasis added to accentuate the point). 

By contrast, we have no tradition of refusing any who present themselves desiring to receive the Holy Communion. Non-baptized people who respond in faith to the invitation will be welcomed at the Table. They should receive teaching about the Holy Baptism as the sacrament of entrance into the community of faith – needed only once by each individual – and Holy Communion as the sacrament of sustenance for the journey of faith and growth in holiness – needed and received frequently.

Point Number 3: No one will be turned away from the Table because of age or "mental, physical, developmental, and/or psychological" capacity or because of any other condition that might limit his or her understanding or hinder his or her reception of the sacrament.

Young children and people with handicapping or incapacitating conditions may need special consideration as the elements are served. Pastors and congregations should develop plans for providing assistance that maintains the dignity and affirms the worth of those receiving. (Holy Communion with gluten free bread and/or water as substitute for bread and juice)

Note for future use of this Bible Study: It is OK to offer the Holy Communion to children (prevenient grace). I make it a practice to follow the parents’ lead in that respect. If parents prefer that their child does not receive the Sacrament until they develop a better understanding of what it is (usually around eight or nine years of age), then I offer the child a piece of bread and some juice. If parents do not object, I serve the Sacrament to their children. 

Point Number 4: The Lord’s Supper in a United Methodist congregation is open to members of other United Methodist congregations and to Christians from other traditions. As a part of the directions before the invitation, it is customary to announce that all persons who profess their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior are welcome to participate in the sacrament in United Methodist congregations. Response to the invitation is always voluntary, and care needs to be taken to ensure that no one feels pressured to participate or conspicuous for not doing so.

Prayer Requests and Closing Prayer.

Bible Study -  Session # 4

Opening Prayer

Scripture Reading:

Scriptures associated with the Holy Communion: {Review Only}

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins"  (Matthew 26:26-28 NIV).

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take eat; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many"   (Mark 14:22-24 NIV).

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you"   (Luke 22:19-20 NIV).

Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf   (1 Corinthians 10:16-17 NIV).

And when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes  (1 Corinthians 11:24-26 NIV).

Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day"   (John 6:53-54 NIV).

Short Lecture:

Throughout the history of the Church Universal, there have been essentially two different ways of viewing the "manner" of Christ’s presence in Holy Communion: memorial representation and real presence.

Note for future use of this Bible study: In the future use of this Bible study, clarify the point that memorial representation is NOT a part of the United Methodist system of beliefs.

Memorial Representation: Our sisters and brothers in Baptist churches, as well as in several other denominations, believe that communion is not a sacrament but an ordinance [a religious ritual, a way to remember our story]. They believe that it is something that humans do because Jesus has commanded that we do it rather than something that God does for and within us. Memorial representation teaches that if the presence of Jesus is to be found anywhere in the Lord’s Supper, it is only in the congregation of the faithful. The grace of God is not believed to fall upon the elements of bread and wine and then from the elements to the people; rather, they believe that the grace of God only falls directly upon the people as they are gathered around the table. As such, for those who accept this understanding of Holy Communion, the elements of bread and wine are essentially, irrelevant  (Grace Incarnate Ministries, Memorial Representation).

According to memorial representation, we are called to simply "remember" our Lord’s presence with us, and His sacrifice for us on the cross, and express our faith by obeying Jesus’ command and partaking of the elements. In that understanding of the Holy Communion, nothing more takes place, either on God’s part or on our’s. There is no aspect of the eternal, and certainly no offer of grace in memorial representation  (Grace Incarnate Ministries, Memorial Representation).

This is not what United Methodists believe. Yes, I know, this might very well have been what some have been taught to believe at various times in the past. It is not exactly wrong to believe it, but it is not what the Wesley brothers believed, and it’s certainly not what our denomination believes.

Real Presence: United Methodists believe that the Sacrament of Holy Communion is much more than just a memorial. United Methodists are part of the catholic tradition in the Church which teaches that the sacraments are a means of grace, not just ordinances, and that when persons partake of the elements in Holy Communion, we affirm that God’s grace is communicated to the believer. In the sacramental approach it is believed that the grace of Jesus Christ falls directly upon the elements of bread and wine and then from the elements to the believer when the believer eats and drinks them in faith. The grace, which is brought with it, is the manifestation of the real presence of Jesus, dwelling in our hearts by God’s grace acting through faith  (Ephesians 3:17)  (Grace Incarnate Ministries, The Real Presence).

As a means of grace, Holy Communion is not our action but God’s action; it is not our act of faith that is in focus here; it is God’s act of giving us the divine presence of Jesus. Through the sacrament of Holy Communion, we are re-membered to the Body of Christ. We are given the wonderful life-transforming grace of our Savior which makes the Christian life possible  (Grace Incarnate Ministries, The Real Presence).

United Methodists believe that Holy Communion is a sacrament, a means of grace, whereby the real presence of Jesus is communicated and by faith comes to dwell in us. This is what we believe  (Grace Incarnate Ministries, The Real Presence).

Note for future use of this Bible Study: Clarify that the sacrament of Holy Communion calls for a response from those who participate in the Sacrament. We ask God to empower the congregation to live as Christians beyond the Sunday morning worship service.

Liturgy of the Holy Communion

  • Confession and Pardon  (UMH 12)
    Merciful God,
    We confess that…
  • Sursum Corda (Latin for “hearts up!”)  (UMH 13)
    The Lord be with you – And also with you
    The Lord is with you – And also with you
    The Lord will be with you to the end of days – And also with you
    Lift up your hearts – We lift them up to the Lord
    Let us give thanks to the Lord our God – It is right to give our thanks…
  • Tersanctus  – (Literal translation from Latin is Three-Holy)  (UMH 13)
    The first part comes from a synagogue prayer based on Isaiah 6:3; the second part comes from Matthew 21:9, Mark 11:9-10, and John 12:13.
    Read Isaiah 6:1-3.

1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:

"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
       the whole earth is full of his glory"   (Isaiah 6:1-3 NIV).

Read John 12:12-66.

12The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,

"Hosanna!"

"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"

"Blessed is the King of Israel!" 14Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written,

15"Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion;

see, your king is coming,

seated on a donkey’s colt."

16At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him   (John 12:12-26 NIV).

  • Anamnesis (Greek word for “remembrance” in the sense of “reenactment”)  (UMH 13-14).
    Anamnesis is based on Matthew 22:26-28, Mark 14:22-35, Luke 22:19-20, John 6:53-59, 1 Corinthians 11:23—25, Hebrews 4:15, and 1 John 2:2.26The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27Finally, the woman died. 28Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?"  (Matt 22:26-28 NIV, emphasis added).

…By the baptism of his suffering, death and resurrection… (UMH 13, emphasis added).

22While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body."   23Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.  24"This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many," he said to them. 25"I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God."   26When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives  (Mark 14:22-26 NIV) . (Also see Luke 22:14-23).

  • Mysterion (The mystery of our faith).
    Mysterion is the part where the whole congregation proclaims:
    Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again.
  • Epiclesis Word "Epiclesis" has its origin in Greek word meaning to "call down" or to "invoke." In Epiclesis we call down the Holy Spirit and consecrate the elements. This part of the liturgy of the Holy Communion is based on scriptures where the Holy Spirit descends as a dove. The pastor prays asking the Holy Spirit to consecrate the Holy Communion elements. Epiclesis is based on Acts 17:28 and John 6:53-59.

‘For in him we live and move and have our being’   (Acts 17:28 NIV).

53Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever." 59He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum   (John 6:53-59 NIV).

  • Lord’s Prayer.
    Our traditional Lord’s Prayer is based on Matthew 6:9-13 and
    Luke 11:2b-5.
    • Fraction (The ceremonial breaking of the bread).
      The fraction is when the pastor breaks the bread as Jesus did in Mark 14:22 and repeats Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8a that “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival….”
    • Distribution.
      It is the portion of the service when people receive the elements.
    • Prayer.
      Communion concludes with a prayer of thanks, not just for the communion, but for the hope of the Resurrection in Jesus Christ. It also asks God to empower the congregation to live as Christians beyond the service.
    • Benediction (Latin for “speak well of” in the sense of “bless”).
      This is the part where the congregation is blessed and sent forth from the service.

Requirements to be a celebrant in the Holy Communion Service

Only an ordained elder or a person authorized under the provisions of the Book of Discipline presides at all celebrations of Holy Communion. Persons who are not ordained elders can only preside at celebrations of Holy Communion at the charges where they are licensed to practice ministry; whereas, ordained elders can serve Holy Communion at any time and in any circumstance.

Prayer Requests and Closing Prayer

Bible Study Evaluation


List of resources used to develop the Bible study:

The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2008. Nashville, Tennessee: The United Methodist Publishing House, 2008.

The Didache. Viewed 25 March 2009. < http://ivanlewis.com/Didache/didache.html >

Grace Incarnate Ministries. Website of Rev. Dr. Greg Neal. Viewed 19 March 2009. < http://www.revneal.org/ >.

The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity. Viewed 25 March 2009. < http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/perpetua.html >

“A Service Of Word And Table 1” The United Methodist Hymnal: Book of United Methodist Worship. Nashville, TN:The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989. 6-11.

“A Service Of Word And Table II” The United Methodist Hymnal: Book of United Methodist Worship. Nashville, TN:The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989. 12-15.

“A Service of Word And Table III” The United Methodist Hymnal: Book of United Methodist Worship. Nashville, TN:The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989. 15-16.

“A Service of Word And Table IV” The United Methodist Hymnal: Book of United Methodist Worship. Nashville, TN:The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989. 26-31.

Shultz, Joseph. The Lord’s Supper: Communion In The Early Church. Online posting. Viewed 25 March 2009. <http://lords-supper.org/resources/shultz_supper.html>

This Holy Mystery: A United Methodist Understanding of Holy Communion. 6 May 2004. Website of the General Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church. Viewed 21 February 2009. <

http://www.kintera.org/atf/cf/{3482e846-598f-460a-b9a7-386734470eda}/THM-BYGC.PDF

>.

Methodology of teaching the Bible study

The Bible study will be a combination of scripture readings, discussion, and short lectures. Each session will last sixty to ninety minutes.

Each short lecture will be no longer than five minutes, and each session will contain two to four of them. These lectures will be used to guide the group into scripture studies, to frame the discussions, and to summarize the group’s conclusions after the scriptures are read and discussed.

During each session there will be several segments where all the participants will read scripture. Some readings will be done as a community. For other readings the community will be split into a number of smaller groups (that number depends on how many people respond to the invitation to attend the Bible study), subsequently coming back together as one community to share conclusions.

The Bible study will be interactive. Participation and input from individual members will be welcomed and encouraged.

For each session I will prepare a handout that will follow the lesson plan with a space for taking notes.

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Some more Holy Communion Resources can be found AT THIS LINK (points to GBOD.ORG)

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