September 4, 2019 | Didi Bacon
I love to watch the New Zealand rugby team do the Haka. New Zealand’s team, the All Blacks, is consistently the best in the world. Before they start a game they do the Haka. The Haka is this crazy war dance - challenge that involved the team standing in formation screaming, making these crazy gestures and in general trying to intimidate the opposition. Go online and do a search on “Haka” and watch the videos! The Haka originates in the Maori culture, the original inhabitants of the New Zealand. In high school I played a field hockey game against a team from New Zealand that was touring Zimbabwe. They did the Haka before we started the game. I can tell you, it is a little unnerving to be the guys on the other side of the field. They started the Haka and we were like, err what are you doing? We just gathered in a circle and looked at each other like this is weird. But there was no doubt that we were being challenged and they were going to give us a game.
So why do they do the Haka? I think there are a number of reasons. First, doing the Haka is unifying. You have to be an All Black to do the Haka. It is not something for someone who is not on the team or part of the tribe. You do the Haka in order to be reminded that you are a part of the team. You belong. You are going into battle together.
Second, doing the Haka fires you up. Doing the war dance energizes you for the battle ahead. Doing the Haka inspires the team and it inspires your supporters.
Third the Haka communicates a message. The message is watch out, we are going to come after you and we have bad intentions! Every time the All Blacks gather to play they begin with the Haka.
The Haka unifies, edifies and clarifies!
Did you know that Jesus asked his followers to do something every time they gathered together that was meant to do these same things as the Haka? Something that unified his followers with Him and with each other. Something that inspired his followers to fulfill His mission to love God and to love people. Something that communicated a message to the world. What I am talking about is the Lord’s Supper, Communion or the Eucharist for those of us who came out of a Catholic background.
Communion is an unifying and edifying activity for the local church that also clarifies a message. The message that we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, he died on the cross and rose from the dead. If we believe we are made right with God. By grace, through faith, at baptism, for good works. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians we have specific instruction to the members of that church regarding taking communion when they gathered together for worship. Here we are provided some depth as to the meaning and the importance of taking the Lord’s Supper together. 1 Corinthians chapter 11 verse 17…
"But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you."
There was a problem with the Corinthian church. When they gathered together they were doing things that were not unifying and edifying. They were divided into little groups that did their own thing. They were doing things in worship that was tearing each other down and not building each other up. The way they were doing communion was one example of their dysfunction as a church. Paul says…
"Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you."
They were coming to church to eat bread and drink wine in order to party! Eating on their own because they were hungry. Drinking so that they would get drunk. They were gathering in their various groups and doing all of this in the name of taking the Lord’s Supper! So Paul goes back to the basics and reminds them of what Communion is all about…he says…
"For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 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 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. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord." 1 Corinthians 11:17-27 (NASB)
Paul reminds the Corinthian Church that communion was intended to be a practice that brought them together (unifying) and to lift them up (edifying).
Communion unifies believers by affirming the foundation of our faith. Communion is something that those of us who believe Jesus is the Son of God, that he died on a cross for our sins, that He rose from the dead to defeat death. This is a practice for Jesus followers. When we take communion together we affirm that we all believe that God has made a way for us to be right with Him through the work of Jesus on the cross and through the empty tomb. We trust in God’s promises. Our faith in Jesus means that we are new creations, the old has gone the new has come. We are filled with the Holy Spirit who powers us to lives resourced by the supernatural to honor God. To love God and to Love people. We are unified in our faith and we are committed to His mission. We take communion to proclaim, to communicate this good news to our world.
Communion also edifies believers by committing to love one another. To take communion in an unworthy manner is to be unloving. To be divided instead of united. To be self centered instead of self sacrificing. To be unforgiving instead of forgiving. Communion is a practice intended to “pump-us-up” in loving God and loving people. It is a celebration of the life God gives by remembering Jesus’ death. It is weighty but it is lite. It is something to be for the individual within the context of being a part of the church family.
Communion is like our “Haka”! Well, you know what I mean. We gather together to unify, edify and clarify. Communion is one worship practice that achieves this goal. Looking forward to being around the table with you next week!