Holy Communion. The Lord's Supper. The Eucharist. The Breaking of Bread. What do these words communicate to you? I usually call it the Lord's Supper myself but all of these are legitimate names. In today's post I would like to tell you what I teach when I teach on the Lord's Supper. It is my hope that you will be moved to reflect on this important tradition that the Lord Jesus himself has given us.
I went down to Anfalas to witness a baptism. We did a lot of teaching on baptism but I knew it was important to follow this up with the Lord's Supper. Both of these important traditions in the Church witness the same thing. They both portray Jesus' sacrifice for us on the cross. (By the way, I am using the word 'tradition' to describe these events rather than the theologically acceptable term 'ordinance' because it conveys an emotional force to me that 'ordinance' does not.) So, after we saw Kili and his wife baptized we went to their home. We sat on the floor around a cloth and I pulled out the box of juice and loaf of flat bread that is a major staple in all of Middle Earth. I showed them Matthew 26 and we talked about the Lord's Supper. Verse 26 is a small parable for me concerning the entire event. It says:
While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, 'Take eat: This is my body."
First, I should point out that this happened while they were eating. The New Testament knows nothing of a small cracker and an itty bitty cup passed out during some kind of theatrical show. They were in someones house eating a meal together. It was not a formal solemn thing. It was a significant life changing event that happened in the midst of normal life. I think most of our experiences with God should be like that.
Next, I explained to Kili and his wife the significance of the supper in the context of Matthew 26:26. What follows is taken from the table of contents of a book by Henri Nouwen. I can't remember the title of the book and he took these subjects in another direction entirely but the chapter titles stuck with me as I went through this verse so I will give him credit.
Jesus took the bread. He himself as the bread of life was chosen by the Father. Jesus was not someone who happened to be in the right place at the right time. He was God's specific instrument uniquely designed for the purpose God chose him for. So are we. We are called by the Father himself to be who he has called us to be. Isaiah 43, speaking of God's people says that he has 'called us by name', and 'you are mine.' You and I are not idly wandering through this world trying to do the 'best we can'. No friends, the King meant something when he meant you. You are called with a purpose. He has taken you just as surely as Jesus picked up that bread.
He blessed it. Jesus as the bread of life was uniquely blessed. To be blessed by God means that God has put his hand on his life in a special way. Jesus is empowered, gifted, cared for, loved, guided, protected, and placed as a cornerstone in the ultimate building not made with hands. So are we. He blesses us. He empowers us. Jesus prays for us and guides us into his unique plans that we may be a part of the building he is making; the Kingdom that is coming.
He broke it. Jesus was broken many times in his life and none more fully and finally than on the cross at Calvary. We also are broken. Many times throughout our lives we are broken down in the difficult circumstances of life. How many of your hopes and dreams have been shattered? Loved ones lost? All your efforts and labors come to fruitless ends? It happens to all of us. It must. The message of the cross is to be born by those who lead the life of the cross. We must die. This is the message of baptism. We die to our old life and we rise to walk in the new life. But the old life has a way of lingering on. More death is always necessary this side of eternity. I am a huge fan of brokenness. We need it if we are to carry the authority to proclaim the resurrection. Brokenness builds in humility, perspective, and most of all character. It is what Almighty God is using to recreate us back into his image. The journey begins with the death of Jesus but it always ends in our own death. I don't enjoy brokenness but I know without doubt that it is my friend.
He gave it. Once we are broken we can be given away. Jesus was broken on the cross and through his breaking the world was changed. The Kingdom o f God came new and we are set free as a result. This is the Good News. The bread of life was given to us. We in turn are given to others. In the Great Commission of Matthew 28 we are sent out on a mission to participate in the redemption of mankind. I told Kili that I was sending him out on mission with God. He looked at me with wide eyes. He understood well what that would mean for him as a former Muslim in a Muslim land. I can confirm that since then Kili has been more than faithful in going and he has suffered for it.
I went on to talk about the shed blood and forgiveness of sins. Through Jesus blood we are a new community and communities have traditions that give them cohesiveness. They have common experiences that build bonds of love and friendship. This is what the Lord's Supper is for. We remember Jesus together. In recognizing him among us in this way we worship him and in worshiping him we are transformed to become more and more like him. I will say that the Church in Anfalas does not do the Lord's Supper very often. The reason is simple. They imitate everything we did in front of them and we never did the Lord's Supper as a team down in Anfalas. We are working to fix that mistake. We are trying to recover what Jesus meant when gave us this tradition that would enable us to think of him 'as oft as you drink of it'. Do you really think that means once a quarter? It sounds a lot like he means every time we eat together. Let us break bread together often and in remembering Jesus together let us remember not only who he was, but who he is and who he is calling us to be. Let us not be sidetracked by issues such as who gets to pass out the bread and juice or who you will eat with in your own home. These issues are not mentioned in the scriptures. Let us focus on what is mentioned; that Jesus wants us to remember his sacrifice. We do not remember it out of some vain sense of sentimentality but out of a true love for him we live like him and love like him. His Kingdom is accessed through the cross. Let us embrace our brokeness and love a world that is dying without Jesus.