“This is my body, which is given for you. This is my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
For thousands of years, the Church, the Body of Christ has come to the table with Jesus. They have broken bread and drank wine, all this in remembrance of Jesus Christ, of what he offered. They have been invited to Communion, to Eucharist. They have been invited to a place of thanksgiving and gratitude, of grace and dependence, of reverence and awe.
For thousands of years, the Church, the Body of Christ has read and reread the words of Jesus found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. They have read the story and poured over the words. They have noted that in Jesus’ final hours, he ate with his friends and the one who would betray him to his enemies. They have been reminded time and again of the indescribable holiness and beauty about coming to the table with Jesus, about Communion, about Eucharist.
When we truly pause and remember and dwell on this simple word—Eucharist—when we truly pause and remember and dwell on the story of Jesus’ final meal, the beauty of it all just might take our breath away, begging us to take off our shoes. The ground we are standing on is holy.
For the past month Troy and I have gathered with a group of believers in South Bend on Tuesday nights. It’s a community of people who are living on mission in the heart of our broken and bruised city, our city that is groaning with growing pains, our city that is hopeful about tomorrow. And every Tuesday we sing together songs that declare truths about Jesus and about his Church. We speak together liturgy and Scripture, and we learn together from God’s Word. It’s beautiful and simple and the stripped down version of “church,” and my soul breathes a little deeper every time we walk into that space.
This past week we were invited to the Table, to communion. We were invited to join the Church, Christ’s Church, in Eucharist. Jason reminded us that the word “Eucharist” derives from the Greek word for thanksgiving and gratitude. And so we were invited to the table in a similar posture, one of gratitude and thanksgiving and expectancy.
Communion, like the sacrifice of Jesus himself is a gift. This sacrifice is given out of love and joy, and it is received with a heart of gratitude and thanksgiving. In my many years of joining others in Eucharist, I have seen it happen with such seriousness and somberness. Yet, on Tuesday, there was a palpable sense of freedom and joy and intense gratitude in the room as we joined the Church in communion. With smiles and laughter, we remembered Jesus. We remembered his body that was broken, his blood that was shed. With deep reverence, we ate together with the Church, but this deep reverence brought joy, not mourning.
“This is my body which is broken for you.”
And Jesus poured the wine and offered it to those who were with him—friends and enemy alike.
“This is my blood which is poured out for you.”
Before we stood to take communion, Jason gave us a simple piece of instruction. Instead of taking communion, reaching for the bread and cup ourselves, we were to receive communion.
“There is something wonderful and beautiful about the vulnerability of holding out empty hands,” he told us.
We were told to simply come to the basket, holding out our empty, vulnerable hands, letting another give us the bread.
“This is the body of Christ which is broken for you.”
We were told to simply dip the bread in the wine that was held out for us, given to us, offered to us.
“This is the blood of Christ which is shed for you.”
The Church believes many different things about Eucharist, about communion. Some join together every week for it, others only a few times a year. Despite our differences in how we think about the physical act of Eucharist, may we never lose sight of this—we come to the table with open, empty, vulnerable hands and receive with immense gratitude and joy the sacrifice and grace and love that has been poured out.
On this Tuesday night in July, I could not help but feel in myself and sense in others a deep-seeded joy. And I can’t help but wonder if this joy, this gratitude came from holding out our open, empty, vulnerable hands. Together as a Body of believers, we accepted the gift that Jesus gives to us. Together, we came with nothing and were filled with the gift of life and love and holiness from Jesus.
And once again, I am reminded of the beauty and the gift of the table, of coming and gathering and living with gratitude and expectancy. I am overwhelmed by the wonder of being invited to the table, of having a place to sit with the Church, of having a place with Jesus.
So I will come with my open, empty, vulnerable hands. I will accept the gift that is offered. And may we come with immense gratitude. May we come with reverence, awe, and joy because the price has been paid. It has been paid in full, and it is offered to all.
“This is my body that was broken for you. This is my blood that was shed for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
Emptiness and vulnerability. A gift so indescribably undeserved. Joy and gratitude
Yes and amen.