Archive for April, 2010

The Bread and the Cup

The bread and the cup, the body and the blood

Last night I went to the Good Friday service at our church. I probably wouldn’t have gone if one of my responsibilities as a newly appointed elder wasn’t to serve communion at the service. I would likely have stayed home with my wife and sleeping daughter. 🙂

I’ve served communion in different settings before so I wasn’t really thinking too much about it. The service itself was enjoyable – a little more forward-looking than I’m used to from a Good Friday service, but refreshingly so. Anyway, we observed communion differently last night than we usually do. Normally we pass silver trays filled with bits of bread or little cups of grape juice down each row until everyone has the element and then we partake together. Last night, we had two elders at the head of each isle – one with a loaf of bread and one with a cup of juice – and had people come up individually and take the bread and dip it into the juice and then eat. (As an aside, I learned a few weeks ago that the technical term for this method is intinction, which means “to dip into” in Latin.)

As I served the cup to people, I was to say, “The blood of Christ, shed for you” to each person as they partook. The sanctuary holds roughly 320 people, so I knew I was in for saying that phrase roughly 150 times. About ten people in, I realized that I didn’t want to just repeat the words like a mantra so I started to make a point of looking at each person as they came up. As I spoke the words to each person, I started to have a sense that what I was offering them in the cup and the words that went with it was very personal.

Then, a couple of minutes later, people I knew started coming through the line. As I looked them in the eye and spoke of what Christ had done for each of them, I was nearly overwhelmed. I could barely hold back tears. It hit me in a fresh way that Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t only for a group of people (those who call themselves His followers though faith) but for individual people, for my friends, and consequently for me. Eventually, I noticed that people were responding to my looking at them as I spoke. Some paused and waited for me to finish before they dipped their bread. Others actually spoke back saying things like, “thank you,” – some even using my name. Still others stood in silence as I spoke but I could tell that they were experiencing some internal emotion as well. It was very moving.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a communion experience that was that personal or intimate. I realized at one point what an honor it was to offer such good news to people. I could have stood there all night saying the same glorious words over and over. I was actually a little disappointed when it was over. I know that not all communion experiences will be like that, but it was really refreshing to connect anew with the wonder of what Jesus did on the cross for me, for my friends and, if you embrace Him by faith, for you too.

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Easter Thoughts – hope for us all

The Betrayal of Jesus

I’ve been meaning to read part of the Easter narrative all week and finally got around to it today. I was intending to read the entire thing but got stopped short before Jesus’ arrest. Two things struck me as I read and both have to do with Jesus’ kindness. The first is how gracious Jesus was towards His disciples and how much He trusted the Father for their growth even when they let Him down. In Matthew 6:31-35, Jesus predicts Peter’s denial of Him and His desertion by the rest of His followers. Mildly offended (maybe more) Peter pronounces that he would die with Jesus before he would deny Him and the others heartily add their, “me too!” But a short time later, we find these same gung-ho disciples asleep in the garden of Gethsemane when they should be praying as Jesus had asked them to. It is so humbling to think that not only would Jesus die willingly for these sleepy followers of His, but He would actually turn over leadership of His kingdom on earth to them. If He is that kind and patient with His disciples, then there is great hope that He can use even the likes of me (and you) in building His kingdom.

The second thing that struck me was not entirely new (see previous post) but hit me afresh today. When Judas arrives to betray Him, Jesus says, “Friend, do what you have come to do.” In an amazing act of kindness, Jesus calls Judas His friend. When I read this previously, I was reminded that only a friend or ally can betray someone. Today, I realized that, even knowing how Judas would treat Him, Jesus offered him genuine friendship. If Jesus can do that for the one who would ultimately betray Him, then surely He is serious when He tells His followers (and presumably us), “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15) I often find it hard to receive Jesus love for me because I am usually fairly aware of my own sin and short-comings. But in calling Judas His friend, Jesus reminds me that (because of His work at the cross) He still considers me His friend despite my laziness or unfaithfulness to Him. And as usual, His kindness leads to repentance. I really want to be less like the sleepy disciples and more like Jesus. His words to Judas give me hope that, even if my transformation takes a long time, Jesus is patient with me and still calls me friend. 🙂