October 11, 2012
Last Sunday my girls were sick with a stomach bug. Since I was on my own, I attended a free-church German service here in München. It turns out that Erntedank (“thanksgiving for the harvest”) was being celebrated, as it always is on the first Sunday in October in Germany. Throughout the service prayers of thanksgivings were offered for God’s faithful provision. Then communion was held, but this was unlike any communion service I’ve ever been in. First, the communion was held after the morning service was finished. Believers were invited to stay but by no means expected to. I would estimated that maybe a third stayed, all of whom were moved to the first three rows of seats. As the communion service began, the theme of thanksgiving continued. The congregation was encouraged to participate by sharing what they were thankful for. Then the congregation had a time of prayer, where various members offered thanks to God. Finally, communion was served.
I found this communion to be a very joyous time. Too often it seems that communion is laden with guilt, as everyone is told to examine themselves for sin. Don’t get me wrong, such examination should regularly occur, but I wonder if we are accurately understanding the thrust of 1 Cor 11. Communion can even be a time of fear for many, as Paul’s words about taking the elements in an unworthry manner are misunderstood. How refreshing it was to participate in communion with believers in a new culture, who used it as a time of thanksgiving–most importantly thanking Christ for his sacrifice!
Last evening we celebrated Erntedank here at the Collegium, where we live. What an experience to be in a service with the other 50 or so students from the Collegium, who come from all over the world, but also to have the disabled residents who live in the Collegium present. One of my fellow students has written an excellent blog post describing last night’s festivities (you can read it HERE). During this service we passed around bushels of grapes and each ate a piece, and then a short sermon with John 15 as the text was given.
Jesus exhorts his disciples in this passage to remain in him. He says that those who remain in him bear much fruit, but that those who do not bear fruit will be “outgrafted.” Therefore Jesus challenges, “Remain in me and let my word remain in you.” That is my prayer, that as I abide in him and in his word, he will make me fruitful for him!