Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Lord's Supper

If you're coming late the party then you might not know that it is "Holy Week."  We're celebrating and reenacting and remembering all of the events that happened the week before Jesus died and came back to life.

Today (Thursday) has lots of names.  Some of us call it Maundy Thursday.  Often it is referred to simply as Holy Thursday.  I have even heard it referred to as Sheer Thursday.

Whatever you decide to call it, today is the day we remember the events that happened the night before Jesus died on the cross.  The account of Holy Thursday is very familiar to most of us.  Even for those of us who aren't super religious or may not go church very much, we have a pretty good idea what happened on "this day" in the Holy week.

Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples.  He washed their feet and told them to wash each other's feet as well.  He enacted the Lord's supper by breaking bread from the table and offering up a cup of wine calling them His body and blood.  He told his disciples to remember Him each time they broke the bread together and shared in the wine.  He called out Judas and predicted his betrayal.  He gave them the commandment to "love one another as I have loved you."

So each year we remember and celebrate that day and the events that took place.

But each week we take time to celebrate and remember The Lord's Supper, The Last Supper, The Breaking of Bread, Communion.  (We really are not satisfied in the Church unless we name and rename and have more names for each event in the Bible.....)

We listen to Scripture read, we maybe hear a short devotional thought on what Communion is, we bow our heads solemnly and very reverently take a tiny bite of a wafer or a piece of bread and we drink a tiny sip of grape juice and we remember that Jesus gave his body and shed his blood on the cross so that we could have forgiveness and eternal life and salvation through Him.

And I am glad we do that.  Trust me, I'm glad.  It's by far my "favorite" part of the service.  I need that weekly reminder to draw my heart back to the Cross.  That's the central focus of my faith and without that short time set aside for The Lord's Supper each week I would not so easily remember what Jesus did.

But Communion in our church, in most church buildings and among most church families, looks like a ritualistic time of sacrament more than it does a meal.

When Jesus first gave the example to his disciples, they were gathered around a table.  They were already enjoying the Passover meal together.  There were cups of wine on the table just as there would have been for almost every meal and certainly for every Passover meal.  There was bread on the table just like there would have been for every supper together.  And Jesus took what was there, used a common food and a common drink and gave his disciples a new way to remember Him once He was gone.

He knew He was about to leave them.  He knew they would forget his sacrifice, and they would need to be reminded all the time.  So he made sure they would have a simple way to reflect back on His death on the cross and remember His new covenant.

In Acts we know that the disciples were continually meeting together and breaking bread together.  They were continually (daily?  more than daily??) meeting together with the Church, sharing in meals together, sharing bread, sharing wine, and remembering Jesus....continually.

Jesus was the topic of conversation around the supper table.  I imagine when the women were baking the bread they were thinking about Jesus and how his body broke on the cross.  When someone started pouring the wine, they were telling and retelling the story of Jesus' blood being poured out and how terrible his death was and how grateful they were for his sacrifice.

Picture it.  This is what communion was.  That is what communion is.

It's important we remember that Jesus was using common elements that were easy for his followers to understand, common elements like bread and wine. 

I don't mean to say communion isn't holy and that it isn't sacred and that it isn't special.  It is.  Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:27 that whoever eats and drinks it in a unworthy manner will be guilty of the blood and body of Christ.  It is holy.  It is sacred.  It is special.

But I don't think it was ever intended to be *just* a mere moment of silence during our worship services where we have a pinch of bread and a sip of wine.  It has to be more.  We have to guard our hearts that it not become a mere religious act.

My husband and I were talking recently about how some churches and some people don't let their children partake in communion until they are baptized or until their children fully understand the weight and meaning of communion.  I would encourage you, if you have children that you begin to share the Lord's supper with them.  Baptized or not baptized, old or young, whether they understand its meaning or not.  As parents we make sure our children partake in lots of acts before they fully understand their meaning.  We make them start brushing their teeth long before they understand the concept of a cavity, we tell them we love them before they are old enough or mature enough to grasp the abstract concept of love, and we prompt them to say please and thank you years before we begin to teach them what those manners and expressions of gratitude really mean.

Our 1 and 3 year old sons take communion with us and we simply tell them to say "Thank you, Jesus, for your body." and "Thank you, Jesus, for your blood."

Jesus said to let the little children come to Him and do not hinder them for His Kingdom belongs to such as these.  (Matthew 19:14)

This was a meal that Jesus used to encourage and build up and strengthen his followers.  I truly believe He meant for all of his followers then and all of His followers to come to remember His death and His sacrifice.  To be continually reminded so that we wouldn't forget.  I don't think, judging from what we read in the gospels and in 1 Corinthians and in Acts that what is BEST for us to is limit The Lord's Supper to a few brief moments, to a pinch and a sip, and to ban and bar our children from partaking in it, even if that's the way we are used to doing it.  Even if that's the way we've always done it.  Because that isn't the way it's always been done.

Maybe this Thursday we could decide that we want to partake in the Lord's supper together with our family.  Maybe we could decide to start baking bread or buying bread and juice to have at our meals at home on Sundays or Saturdays or Tuesdays.  Maybe we could think about forming the habit of taking bread and juice or wine to the next church potluck in lieu of our cake and casserole so that when we meet together to have that meal, we as a church family could break the bread and drink the cup and remember Jesus.  Maybe we could start searching our hearts and start asking ourselves if we would like to begin including our children in the Lord's Supper on Sundays, even if they might not fully grasp its meaning.  (Maybe we don't fully grasp its meaning either....)

Let's not waste this "Holy" Thursday by just reading our familiar Bible text and have a feel-good moment about Jesus washing our feet.

Instead, let's change and grow in at least one tiny way, let's remember Him, actually REMEMBER HIM and find a way to remember Him more often.

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