The Cup and the Bread Are Infectious
by Rev. Randy Brown
Years ago there was a very dangerous disease, an illness known as smallpox. It first made its way into human history around 10,000 BC. The word pox means “red plague.” If you’ve seen any pictures of what that would do to a human being you knew that it was an illness, a disease, that would scar for life and that it usually would begin to live somewhere and spread in the skin or in the mouth or in the throat. It was a form of a rash. I don’t know how many of you had to take the vaccine. You probably still got a mark on your shoulder, right? How many have done that? You know that. All right.
It is estimated that in the 18th Century there were about 400,000 Europeans who died as a result of the smallpox virus. In the 20th Century there was about the same number of folk. As late as the 1960s there were 15 million people that came in contact with it and about 2 million of those persons were killed by the smallpox virus. In 1979 the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control declared that that smallpox virus was eradicated from the face of the Earth. It is interesting to note that there are some vials of the smallpox virus still in existence today. There is, by agreement of nations, some in a very secluded place, a very guarded place in Russia and some at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia.
Well, you’ve probably heard somebody, Dana or Cindy, mention today that the staff of this church, we were in Atlanta earlier this week. I used to live in Atlanta when I went to seminary and didn’t live far from the Center for Disease Control where the smallpox vaccine and vials are stored. They’re stored under great security. They’re stored in very sterile conditions in a tube. Those folks who go in and study and try to work with the smallpox virus or vaccine, in case there’s ever a biochemical war that breaks out, they would have an antidote for people, so that the risk would be very minimal.
I decided when we were down there that I would go back by the Center for Disease Control and see if I could see an old friend and see if he could let me borrow a vial of that smallpox virus to bring to you this morning. Well, he wouldn’t let me. So, you can rest easy, okay, but I did think of you while I was down there. What I want to say to you this morning is this, what is in this container is more potent, is more contagious and is more infectious than the smallpox virus. I honestly believe that. Cindy, you’re brave sitting on the front row. The choir, you all may be okay. Dana, get the music guy. Come here Dana. You trust me? Okay, I’m just checking. There’s something in here that is more contagious, more infectious, more powerful than that which killed millions and millions of people. Are you ready? You all ready? Julie, you ready? All right. It is the body and the blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Friends, that’s infectious, contagious material. And, what I want to do today is I want to share it with you so that the New Covenant of Christ will infect and invade your life, that it will make you a contagious Christian wherever you go and that the world that definitely needs to be infected with the Gospel of Christ would be infected through you. That’s what we’re about this day as we come and celebrate the body and blood of Christ. Now, as we take these elements and as we become infected with the life of Christ in our life, in a few moments. I want to share with you what it may look like, not for your but it has looked like for other people. Then you will have to determine for yourself what this infectious, contagious, Christian faith will look like for you. In other words, how will you live it out? So, my goal today is to infect you with the Sacrament of Holy Communion, so that you will in turn go into the world in which you live and be infectious for others.
Here’s how others have lived it out. There was a man named Peter and John. We read about them in several places in Scripture but this morning we read about in the Book of Acts, Chapter 3. Peter and John were on their way to the temple for their afternoon prayer session. As they go to prayer they cross in front of the gate that’s called “Beautiful” and there’s a lame man there. He’s been laying there for years. Every day somebody would bring him, and he would be there. Every day he would beg for alms, money. On this particular day, he got Peter and John’s attention. And, as he got their attention he asked for alms, he held out his cup and Peter and John said to him this, “silver and gold have I none but such as we have we give to you, in the name of Jesus Christ rise up and walk.”
Now, there’s a very key truth here. “Silver and gold have I none,” they said. You can’t give what you don’t have. That’s why I want to infect you today with the contagious Christ. But, they did give him what they did have. He said, “In the name of Jesus Christ rise up and walk” and in a moment the man got up and the Scripture says he went walking and leaping and praising God. It was their infectious, contagious Christ in them that brought a new beginning for this man who had laid there for years and years. You see, that’s the way they lived out their contagious, infectious faith. They went around meeting the needs of other people and that’s what you and I are to be about, as infectious and contagious Christians.
There’s another story of a man who lived out his infectious, contagious faith found in Chapter 6 and 7 of the Book of Acts. His name was Stephen. The first time we read about Stephen this is the way he is described, “He was a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit.” Wow. You think he was infectious? You bet he was. It says that he lived his faith in such a way that the church grew and even the number of priests grew in faith. You see he even had influence over the religious folk of the day. That’s the way he lived out his faith. And, finally, he was stoned to death; He was falsely accused. As he was stoned to death the Scripture says, “and his face looked like an angel.” Not only that, but further describing his death we read where Stephen was such an infectious, contagious Christian that he prayed the prayer that Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they’re doing.” That’s a contagious, infectious faith.
And then in Acts 16 verse 27, we read about Paul and Silas. Paul and Silas were in jail. They were under close scrutiny of the guards and of the head jailer. As they were praying and having prayer meeting there was an earthquake and the walls fell and the chains fell off. And, suddenly the jailer realized what had happened and the jailer was getting ready to end his own life when Paul and Silas said, “Don’t do that! Don’t do that! We’re still here.” The jailer’s life was changed because the jailer himself asked the question, the same question that Nicodemus asked, “What must I do to be saved?”
That’s how some of our forefathers have lived out their contagious, infectious life. You’ll have an opportunity, you’ll meet a friend of mine in August, on the fifth Sunday of August. You know him. You’ve probably seen him. His name is Rudy Kalis, he works for Channel 4. Rudy is going to come; I invited him last week to come and share his testimony as we have the one service on the last Sunday of August. What an infectious, contagious guy. Do whatever you got to do to be here that day, okay because you’ll see it in living color, in his life. But, what about you? Well, preacher, I’m not Rudy Kalis, and I’m not Paul and Silas, and Peter, and John, and Stephen. I’m just me. Well, that’s exactly who God wants you to be because he made you the way you are. There’s something in all of our lives that we can live a contagious, infectious Christian life.
Let me tell you one more story and then we’ll be through and come to the table. His name was Johnny. He had Down’s syndrome. He was about 14/15 years old now. He went to a meeting and there was a lady leading the meeting that talked about personal influence. The lady in her talk said, “Everybody can influence somebody. Everybody can make somebody else’s day.” And, Johnny thought to himself, how in the world can I do that? Then he remembered, he had a job. He was a sack boy, carrying out groceries at a grocery store. So, what he did, he began that night. He went home and he typed out a phrase, a Scripture or a thought for the day and every time he was at work and every time he would take out somebody’s groceries, he would take a slip of paper with a phrase or a thought or a scripture verse, he’d put it in their bag of groceries, put the groceries in the car and say come back, have a good day. That’s the way he lived out his contagious, infectious, Christian faith.
There was one problem with that though. Only after a few weeks, the manager at the grocery store got a phone call. They were complaining because everybody wanted Johnny to carry out their groceries and sometimes the line would back up all the way around the inside of the store just because they wanted this young boy with Down’s syndrome, who determined to make a difference to take out their groceries. You know what I believe? I believe if God can use a little boy named Johnny, he can use me, and he can use you to be an infectious, contagious, carrier of the faith. I hope you’ll let Him do it. Be a carrier. Don’t let the faith be dormant but carry it to your world that’s so desperately, desperately, desperately needs to be infected with the love of Christ.
Let us pray. Father, in just a moment we’re going to come and receive the elements of Holy Communion, the juice and the bread. It’s to remind us of what you did for us. And, Lord, as we take it into our bodies, that we receive it, may your Son, may His grace and love come alive within us that we might be infectious, contagious followers of Christ because the world so desperately needs it. Have your way Oh, God. In Jesus name.