For I have received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night 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, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
No matter what denomination you may currently find yourself in–if the church professes a belief in the risen Lord-Jesus Christ- the Lord’s Supper is celebrated. And, no matter how often (or how sparsely) it is celebrated throughout the year, the Lord’s Supper is always celebrated on Maundy Thursday.
For it was on this night, the night of his betrayal, that Jesus–the Son of Man–wrapped himself, not only in the tears and the skin of humanity, but wrapped himself in a towel. Sitting, kneeling at the feet of sinners who should have fallen prostrate before him–he washes their feet and explains they are to be servants. He then wraps himself in the tradition and faith of those that had gone before him, moves to the table, and gives thanks to his Father–Abba.
And he breaks. He pulls back the hard crusty outer layer to reveal a beautiful design of texture, holes, substance, and air colliding together to form a nutrient our body craves and cannot live without. He passes. This gift- this feast is not just for one man, no; it is for all. It is not just a one-time encounter. This is life-giving and we must come often.
He gives thanks, he breaks bread, and they eat.
This eating–something they have done once a year for as long as they can remember. Maybe they don’t notice anything unusual–until Jesus starts using language such as, “This is my body. This is my blood. This is the new covenant. Do this in remembrance of me.”
For us it is the same. We come to the table, just as we have many times before. And perhaps we do not notice anything unusual, until we hear those same words, “This is my body, my blood, the new covenant, do this in remembrance.”
And we get stuck there.
This ismy body, or this “represents” my body, is it a love feast or a cannibalistic sacrifice? The language of the Eucharist has been tangled between our lips for centuries. And we proudly prolong that division today as we assert our way of practicing is the right way.
My home church–Lutheran Church Missouri Synod–practices “Close Communion” [no, not “closed” but “close”]. Here’s why:
[We want to protect those coming to the Lord’s table–because it says in the Bible if one eats the bread and drinks the cup in an unworthy manner they reap judgment on themselves. Communion is a profession of a doctrine and a creed and we feel that you must adhere to this (our) doctrine and creedin order to participate (with us) in this sacrament.]
We even have this written on our communion cards for the “visitors”:
Inviting all Christians to communion would imply a oneness which does not yet exist, but for which we all must pray.
I think that prayer goes something like…Dear Jesus, we pray for one-ness. But we don’t actually want to take the necessary actions to move towards one-ness because…well, it’s hard and we don’t know how. In your mighty power, please bring about this one-ness. We love you, Amen.
In good Evangelical fashion–let’s go back to the Bible! Who did Jesus give himself to–on the night he broke the bread? The disciples. Wait. Stop right there. Let’s apply this “one-ness” factor: tax collector, betrayer, self-righteous “rock”, zealot, fisherman, doubter…I don’t think they all agreed on one creed or one doctrine (and they were WITH Jesus for 3 1/2 years!). We have four gospels. In 3 of them Jesus celebrates the Passover Feast with his disciples. In the 4th, Jesus IS the Passover Lamb.
Is Jesus preaching a one-ness that does not yet exist? Yes. He even prays for it too–in the garden, “Father, may they be one even as you and I are one.” He knew there was not yet one-nessand he still washed their feet, broke bread and ate with them. (Picture your Grams wagging her finger…”for shame”)
Maybe Christ is showing us a way to practice being one–even though we are not yet whole and fully “one.” Do we have to be accepted by a certain doctrine in order to participate in the Love Feast of our Lord? Or could this open and inviting participation and encounter with the Divine as heaven touches earth lead us to deeper commitment to the Body-the Church on Earth?
This Feast could bring us together or drive us apart…as it has been for centuries.