Dismembering and Remembering the Body of Christ

Today is the first Sunday of the month, which means communion for a lot of United Methodist Churches.  Over the summer I heard a sermon which I have been saving for a Communion Sunday meditation.  It was on dismembering and remembering.

When we take communion, the officiant says, “This is my body, broken for you.  This is my blood, shed for you.”  We remember Christ’s sacrifice and what he did for us by dying on the cross.  We remember his teachings to his disciples and the words we try to live up to today.

But do we also remember that the body of Christ through the Church is supposed to be unbroken?  Back in the radical 1960’s, in a era that was surprisingly hopeful despite the brokenness in the world, Father Peter Scholtes wrote “They’ll Know We are Christians by our Love.”  In case you don’t know the words:

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.
And we pray that our unity will one day be restored.
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

I’m not sure people know we are Christians by our love today.  The Church is certainly not one in the Spirit or one in the Lord.  Religion remains a very divisive issue.  There are times when I am embarrassed to say I am a Christian because of what some Christians have done in the name of Christ.  I imagine I hear Jesus say, “This is my body, broken because of you.  This is my blood, shed by you.”

And yet, I carry this ideal of the Church in my heart and in my spirit.  The Body of Christ must be unified or, by ripping it apart, it is dead.  Even if we worship in different denominations and place emphasis on different things, we are all still One in the body of Christ.  The bread is for all and shared by all.  No one is too wicked to turn away from this communion – this common union.  No one is so good that they don’t need His body, His blood.

When someone left the church when I was a pastor, it always hurt my heart.  When they left in anger or disappointment, I would feel like I did something wrong.  It felt like a death, like I was grieving.  By removing themselves from the Body, they were dismembering it.  They were tearing the body apart.

Dismembering is an ugly thing.  Tearing something apart bit by bit is painful and awful.  And when we eat that bread, torn from the one loaf, we need to understand the times we hurt the unity of the Body of Christ.  As Christians we need to stop tearing the body apart – dismembering – and spend more time healing the wounds and putting it back together – remembering.

John 13:34-35 reminds us.  A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  Maybe if we do a better job of living out this verse, we will be able to remember and resemble the Body of Christ.