On Strowan – Volume 14 // Issue 5 // 4 July 2019
College Chaplain is Paul Morrow.
On Sunday evening we ran our first Year 8 Communion Service as a way of introducing our Preparatory School students to one of the transformational traditions within the Presbyterian and Christian church.
I shared the story from the book Unbroken which tells of the amazing life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic track champion and World War II veteran who survived a plane crash and 47 days on a raft in the Pacific Ocean.
Zamperini was then captured by the enemy and experienced brutal torture in a Japanese prison camp. There was a prison guard there known as ‘The Bird’ who tortured him unmercifully. However, Zamperini managed to survive and returned to his home in California after the war.
Once back in the States though, he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and understandable bitterness. The veteran turned to alcohol for relief and dreamed of returning to Japan to murder ‘The Bird’.
In 1949 Louis Zamperini went to a Christian crusade and heard the good news that Jesus came to give his life that we might have life in all its fullness. Zamperini accepted Christ’s love and grace for himself and turned from addictions and bitterness to a life of faith and service.
With God’s help Zamperini forgave his captors and wrote a moving letter to ‘The Bird’, telling his tormentor,
“I forgave you”.
Communion, within the Christian worldview is where we remember, through the eating of bread (symbolising the body of Christ) and drinking of wine (symbolising his blood), what Jesus did for humanity (as God incarnate) through his life, death, and resurrection.
What is so significant about the death and resurrection of Christ?
Christian thinker and communicator, Rob Bell, relates our living based on something needing to die. Think of what you have eaten today. It would have been something that was once a plant and maybe something that was once an animal. In other words, something that was once alive, but in order for you to eat it, it had to die.
The fruit or vegetable had to be harvested, pulled from the soil, picked from a tree. The animal had to be butchered. You have to eat to stay alive, and for you to eat, something has to die. Your life is dependent on something else’s death.
Rob Bell says, “Death is the engine of life. Think about what happens when someone dies doing something heroic, like rescuing someone in trouble or standing up to injustice. We say that their death was inspiring. To inspire is to breathe in life, to give life.”
Take the seasons for example. In the winter everything dies. And then in the spring it comes back to life. It literally springs forth.
You have many trillion cells in your body right now. They are constantly dying while your body is producing new ones to replace them. Around 300 million cells in your body die and are replaced every minute.
“Death is the engine of life. All around us, all the time. This death-and-rhythm is built into the fabric of creation.” – Rob Bell
For life to flourish, something must die. To relate this to our spiritual lives; we all do things that do not make us feel that great about ourselves, we do things that make us feel guilty, we do things that put others down, we have things done to us that make us feel angry and spiteful, we do things that put us above others, we do things that take life out of how things should be. When we do this life is not lived as it should be.
For Louis Zamperini, even though he was free from his prison camp his torturer continued to haunt him and ensure his life was miserable. He was imprisoned by his desire to get revenge, to get back at ‘The Bird’.
Communion is a way of entering into the life of Jesus Christ. A life that gives us life, through forgiveness, by releasing us from all our guilt, our desire to get even, our shame for what we have done to others that is not good.
Louis Zamperini experienced this forgiveness for his own life, and it changed him. His old ways died, and he was able to live in the life of Jesus Christ, and this enabled him to forgive his torturer, ‘The Bird’.
Communion is important to the church and the individual follower of Jesus because, like Louis Zamperini’s experience, it has the potential to transform people’s hearts and it reminds us of God’s saving action toward us.
Have a wonderful and safe holiday.