Mark 14:23-31 “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. I assure you that I won’t drink wine again until that day when I drink it in a new way in God’s kingdom.’ After singing songs of praise, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Jesus said to them, ‘You will all falter in your faithfulness to me. It is written, I will hit the shepherd and the sheep will go off in all directions. But after I’m raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.’
Peter said to him, ‘Even if everyone else stumbles, I won’t.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘I assure you that on this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ But Peter insisted, ‘If I must die alongside you, I won’t deny you.’ And they all said the same thing.”
Communion is our family meal. It is the time for Christians to come to Christ’s table and share in the saving work of God. There are a lot of ways to do it. Some try to make sure certain words are said, or certain bread is used. Sometimes there are arguments over how often it should be done. There are most serious disagreements about who should be allowed to come. Should children? Should the unbaptized? Should the non-members? Should those that vote for pro-choice candidates?
When I read the story of Jesus’ last supper, I see no boundaries. I see no filters. I see no rules. I see simply a man gathered with his friends. I see sinners. I see a betrayer. I see a denier. I see a tax collector. I see fishermen. I see rich men. I see men that know only that they want to follow Jesus, though even they might not be sure why. I see love, fellowship, wonder, fear, and community. It is an imperfect community, made perfect through love.
I love Communion. I love having that piece of bread placed in my hands. I love sweet taste of the bread mixing with grape juice. I love to let it sit in my mouth so I can savor it. I breath deeply, eyes shut, so I can tune every sense into this one thing that I am doing. I do not know what exactly I’m doing when I eat from Jesus’ bread and drink from Jesus’ cup. It is a mysterious ritual that still astounds me.
Is it symbolic? No – that word seems too flimsy. This is more than symbol that I hold in my mouth. It is more than symbol that fills me with hope and power, humility and awe.
Is it changed atomically? No – My scientific mind knows that it remains bread and grape juice. I am not participating in some magical cannibalistic ritual.
Is it really Christ’s body and really Christ’s blood? I’m not sure how to answer that, but I’m okay with living in the mystery that something about Communion is real. Something about it connects me to Jesus himself. That table stretches across time and space, and there is room for the saints of the ages. There is room for the sinners that come together. There is room for the betrayers and the deniers. There is room for the tax collector and the Pharisee. There is room for the young and the old. There is room for the rich and the poor. There is room.
It is our family meal. It is a time to share in God’s saving work in the world, and that work is real.
Jesus, you have called us together to your table. In the act of breaking bread, you invite us to be your companion. In the sharing of the cup you offer forgiveness. I am humbled by your invitation, and strengthened by your grace. Fill me with your love, and empower me with the Holy Spirit. Amen.