December 7, 2014 by jmar198013
My communion talk this morning from church.
Welcome to the Lord’s Table.
Sisters and brothers, the word I’ve brought to you to share at this table today is from the book of Hebrews. Twelfth chapter, verses 22-24:
But you have drawn near to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem, to countless angels in a festival gathering, to the assembly of God’s firstborn children who are registered in heaven, to God the judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous who have been made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks better than Abel’s blood. (CEB)
At this table we are drawn near to Jesus, whose covenant blood speaks a better word than Abel’s. The question that arises is, Why is it specifically Abel’s blood that is mentioned?
We all know who Abel was: the first murder victim. Killed by his own brother, Cain. When God confronted Cain with what he had done, God said, The voice of your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground (Gen. 4.10). Abel’s blood cried out for justice, for Abel’s death to be avenged. Abel’s blood demanded that Abel’s suffering be acknowledged. Abel’s blood insisted that Abel’s life mattered. Abel’s blood demanded an accounting for the life that had been stolen. But Abel stayed dead, while Cain the murderer was spared. Cain even went away with God’s seal of protection on him. So Abel’s blood echoed on throughout history, and echoes still. Whenever justice is deferred. Whenever voices that deserve to be acknowledged are silenced. Whenever the wounds of the people are dressed as though they’re nothing. Whenever people suffer alone. Wherever anybody prays, How long, O LORD?—that is the echo of Abel’s blood crying out.
Abel’s blood speaks a true, honest, and necessary word. But Jesus’ blood speaks a better word than Abel’s. Why? Firstly, because the Cross proves that God is not aloof from suffering and injustice. The Cross is God’s skin in the game. Jesus steps willingly into the place of those who suffer, who are forsaken, who cry out, How long, O LORD? From the Cross, God can gather up all those who are broken, forgotten, abused, and rejected and say, “I know. They did it to me, too.”
Second, Jesus’ blood speaks better than Abel’s because while Abel’s blood rightfully cried out for justice, Jesus’ blood speaks forgiveness and reconciliation. Someone who has not suffered, who has not been abused and violated, has no moral authority to tell anyone to love their enemies, pray for them, and forgive them. The Cross is Jesus’ moral authority for calling us to so live.
Finally, Jesus’ blood speaks better than Abel’s blood because it forms the basis of our hope that God is making the world right. That God does justice. That our lives matter. That God acknowledges our suffering. Jesus’ blood is our hope because we Christians believe that God did not forget Jesus. God did not leave Jesus to rot. God vindicated Jesus by raising him from the dead. The Cross and Resurrection are God’s promise that we do not suffer alone, and that our lives and deaths are not meaningless. The voice of Abel’s blood can only judge our history. To be sure, Jesus’ blood judges our history—but it also redeems it, giving us the power to go on living hopefully, in spite of what we have done, and what has been done to us.
Bread: Father, as we gather at Jesus’ table this morning, as we share the bread that is his body, may it nourish us into people who hear the cries of the suffering in their distress, and to respond with patient love. Father, we confess that we have not always been good listeners, and we plead your grace. Nurture our hearts to honor the hurting, and make us a heaven of hope. In the name of Jesus, who is our hope, amen.
Cup: Father, as we share this cup, the blood of your Son, let us not forget that he suffers with us, and you suffer with him and with us. May we receive this cup with joy, knowing that his blood cries out for mercy and forgiveness, both for those in pain, and for those who cause pain. In the name of your Son Jesus we pray. Amen.