Taken, blessed, broken and shared for the world...

NOTE: This Sunday our worship will be a deeper encounter with the mystery of Eucharist as we use song and silence, scripture and our senses to reclaim Holy Communion as something greater than a memorial meal. Too often we work to limit the Sacred to our rational and linear minds when there is truth and hope - grace - beyond the obvious. What follows is my introduction to a collection of readings, commentary and songs geared towards broadening our experience of God's grace in the sacred feast.

For many in our tradition, the sacrament of Holy Communion is confusing: some have taken the bread and cup all of their lives but aren’t really sure what it means, others have been denied access to the table for a variety of reasons and are equally confused – and sometimes hurt – and still others know that it is very powerful and spiritual moment but don’t really know what to do with the words “this is my body” or “this is my blood.” To not understand Eucharist, my friends, is nothing to be ashamed about nor is it something to deny; in fact, for most Christians – Catholic or Reformed – there is more darkness than light when it comes to this sacred meal.

My colleague in ministry, Martin Copenhaver, has written: while some people of faith may recall that the first supper was Christ’s last supper – set within the context of the Jewish Passover – authentic understanding breaks down beyond this. For example, we always say that we “celebrate” Holy Communion. And while we do perform this sacrament with a keen sense of ceremony, which is part of all celebrations, even the most raucous… the similarity between this celebration and other celebrations – in most churches of our tradition – seems to end. In contrast to other festivities, what we tend to do with this feast ranges from muted to grim.”

I think Martin is right – traditionally we have been focused on the Last Supper – which was a somber and ultimately sad event. And if our only understanding of communion stops in the Upper Room, it makes sense to keep things sad. But like the evangelist Billy Sunday used to say, “Most Christians have just enough religion to make themselves miserable” and that is what our limited appreciation for the breadth and depth of truth and grace in Eucharist does: keeps us locked in one moment in time when the truth of Holy Communion tells us that the Last Supper was not the last word of God.

+ Think of the supper on the road to Emmaus – a joyful and deep time of fellowship and teaching – where the resurrected Christ opened the sad eyes of his former disciplines’ and showed them the hope for new life.

+ Think of the meal of fish and bread the resurrected one shared with Peter on the beach after the disciple’s betrayal: this was a feast of forgiveness and renewal.

+ This is how the book of Acts speaks of the disciples gathering in one another’s homes for prayer, teaching and the breaking of bread: this was the start of real Christian community where everyday people came to see themselves as part of Christ’s body as they cared for one another and opened their hearts together to God.

So there is joy and fellowship, forgiveness and grace, community and hope within this bread and wine, too. There is equality and justice as well: remember how St. Paul told us that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, slave nor free…? What’s more, Holy Communion is one of the ways we get to see the mystery of incarnation in action for we take what is ordinary – common bread and the fruit of the vine – and with prayer and faith trust that it becomes for us part of God’s blessing.

And one more truth is revealed at the table: like the bread which is taken, blessed, broken and shared, so, too, our very lives. That is, you see how we are invited to live after experiencing the blessing. We come to understand that God has taken us – called us, that is – given us a blessing, broken us from any sense that we can be our best selves all by ourselves – broken our hearts so that there is room for compassion, broken our will so that we might get over our smug and self-righteous illusions – and then sends us – dare I say, shares us – with a world aching for signs of healing and hope.

We proclaim that this is the radically open table of Jesus Christ - a place for winners and losers, young and old, gay and straight, hopefilled and afraid, guests and old timers - because God's grace if available for us all right here no matter what our condition. This morning – using scripture and prose, song and silence – I invite you to consider something of God’s depth and breadth in this sweet sacrament. May the Eucharist become for you more than a memorial meal but a true thanksgiving feast.


Black Pete said…
It's all that, my man.

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