Sunday Reflection: Bread and Wine

I invite you to experience communion in your daily life this week.  When you take a moment to eat or drink use it as a moment to refocus on Christ and the people at your table (whatever your ‘table’ might be).  Do so with Grace and Faith.  Do so with with reverence, love, and gratitude.

the-last-supper
Poem from today is at the bottom and refers to this painting.

READING: Corinthians 11: 23-29

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 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.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenantin my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.

It sounds a bit harsh.  Do it “right” or you’re ‘unworthy’.  We all know that I’m not a judge-y reader of the Bible, so you can be sure I’m not here to make you feel guilty or sinful.  

But there is intention that is important in this breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine.  I had a teacher once who used to say if you hate it you won’t do it (she was referring to meditation and exercise, but it applies to everything).  It’s important to try things, and give yourself time to maybe fall in love, but if it’s just this rote I-must-do-this thing you’ve lost the intention.  I feel that that is some of the point of this passage: do it in the right state of mind.  Have an intention and what is that intention.  But we’ll get to that.  

It seems that my reflections are led by my own curiosity.  I really was curious about Communion.  I know why, but some of the other questions get blurry.  All those question words came up: How?  What?  Who? When?  Where?  Apparently, I’m not the only one since there are centuries and centuries of debate over some of these issues.  Some debates that all out split the church.  

Let’s go back a little bit.  The first communion was at the Last Supper and is a bridge point between the Old and the New Testaments.  The Old Covenant and the New Covenant.  

The first Feast was the Passover feast, which is the feast which Jesus and his disciples are celebrating in the Last Supper.  Passover cerebrates the last plague and the freedom of the Israelites from Egypt.  When the last plague occurred, those who had faith in God marked their doors in lamb’s blood to.  When the first born of each family was killed, the plague passed over the houses with those marked doors.  In return, God promised it to be the plague.  It was also a time he promises a prophet to come.  

To celebrate, the lamb was eaten at the Passover supper.  

The last supper gives fresh meaning to the old covenant.  The sacrificial lamb of Passover is now the sacrificial lamb of God.  Jesus.  The bridge between the two books.  

In the last supper of Luke, Jesus does a few beautiful things.  First, he gives thanks to God. A remembrance of the Passover.  

Then: 19 he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.  Then there is sung a hymn.    

There are no grand marble statues or bronze statues in remembrance of Christ. It is no jewelry or gold.  No.  There is bread.  There is wine.  The stuff of daily life.  Consistent daily practice of spirituality and connection to God.  

I find this to be incredibly beautiful.  This isn’t a practice for the rich or the special.  It’s for everyone.  The common people.  “Do this in remembrance of me.”  Simply…remember me.   

If it becomes this rote, overly formal, dead routine, the intention is lost.  Breaking bread and drinking the wine should be a moment of connecting to the people at your table.  A refocus on Christ and becoming a person more Christ-like yourself. Corinthians says to come with reverence, love, and gratitude.  A loving attitude.

It’s as simple as that, but just to come to a few other confusions.  Who, where, why, what.  These are things that are debated through millennium.  

First debate, how often?  The Bible doesn’t tell us.  Daily?  Weekly?  Monthly?  Special Occasions?  This is up for debate.  Enough that you come back to refocusing on Christ.  Not so much that it becomes dead and rote.  Those are the ‘rules’.  I think it’s pretty telling that it is the stuff of common, daily life: bread and wine.  

Then, of course, when we talk about communion the question of what is going to come up.  What is the bread and the blood.  If you’re Catholic, it’s transubstantiated and actually BECOMES the blood and body.  If you’re protestant, if may be consubstantiated and contains the Spirit of Christ or it is merely a symbolic act that brings up back to refocusing on Christ.  

This brought me to open, closed, and close communions.  Which will bring us back around to WHO is worthy.  Open is anyone who professes to believe in God and Christ; this is the position of our Church.  We are a place that welcomes all people to come together, and be together, without judgement.  Closed is those who are in good standing in a particular church (as you can imagine, at best, this is tricky area.  Who gets to decide who is in “good standing”—someone has to and anyone who has been on a board, knows that agreements are sometimes hard to come by).  Close is others of same denomination.  Visitors.  

Who is Worthy?  Well, according to the Corinthians passage there are five things that make one “unworthy”:

–partaking and not sharing
–partaking in drunkenness
–partaking and abusing/judging those who are poor
–partaking with a selfish attitude
–partaking only to feed physical hunger

And ‘worthy’ is in manner.  How do you partake?  Partake with grace and faith.  That’s it. Grace and faith.  

As there is no communion this week, I invite you to experience communion in your daily life this week.  When you take a moment to eat or drink use it as a moment to refocus on Christ and the people at your table (whatever your ‘table’ might be).  Do so with Grace and Faith.  Do so with with reverence, love, and gratitude.  

POEM: Bulgarian Icon of the Last Supper
If they saw around his head and theirs the halos—
All would be known. And Judas without a halo
Would not fool anyone. This is true of all such paintings.
But why are the two white parsnips on the table
In the foreground? The upper room crowds in
With slotted windows, spindly pillars, under a small blue dome.
Everyone’s dressed in the gold of holiness, even Judas.
And in Christ’s halo, the letters of his fate are legible.
Anyone looking his way had to know. But those root vegetables,
There side by side, among the three-pronged forks—
They couldn’t be more accurate, less stylized.
And in those loving cups—aren’t those dumplings?
Everything else is flattened into the sacred.
All lineaments are red in the clothing worn, the faces
Long, lined, expressionless, are all alike.
Before each man, a scarlet triangle, like a place card,
Waits, perhaps, to be plucked up and hidden.
In Bulgarian, the words for “Last Supper,” somewhat ambiguous,
Mean “holy or secret, enigmatic, mysterious meal.”
Here, footnoted by dumplings. And a pair of parsnips.
As if to say: “Just as you eat at your house. Any night.”
(Mark Jarman)
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