Vol 9, Num 3 :: 2010.02.05 — 2010.02.18
During worship on the first Sunday of the month at church, I hold a small plastic shot class full of Welch’s grape juice in a pocket that I form with my pointer finger and thumb. I take my other index finger and swirl it around the edge of the shot glass hoping that I might be able to make a melodic humming noise, like one of those musicians who uses wine glasses and a wet finger to make music. To my dismay, it never works, probably because the cup is plastic. At this point, I am jettisoned back into reality: communion, a somber feeling like during a funeral, remembering Jesus getting beat up because I am a sinner, and the tart taste of grape juice dripping down my throat.
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus shares communion with his disciples by reclining at a table. Imagine Jesus unwinding with his disciples; that image should put Da Vinci’s Last Supper to shame, because there is something very human about relaxing with a group of friends over a meal. As the passage in Luke continues, we read about an intimate moment shared between Jesus and his disciples: “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” The son of man who existed before creation “eagerly desired” to share a meal that he will not enjoy again until his kingdom returns. Communion is beautifully heavy and intimate for Christians.
Last year during my university’s spring break, my church’s college group spent a week serving the community of Charlotte, North Carolina. After a long week of praying with people, participating in after school programs, affixing a sewage pipe to a septic tank and sorting clothing for a woman named Joy, we put a few tables together and reclined for communion over dinner.
The atmosphere in the room felt heavy but sweet as one brother serenaded us with worship music. I have always been told before the elements were handed out at church that, “if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Toward this end, we all left our cell phones in a different room. When we broke bread, anyone could excuse himself from the meal in order to make amends with someone he hurt or was hurt by. Paper was also available if making a phone call was inappropriate or difficult.
I believe Revelation 3:20 holds an important clue as to why communion is held sacred to our God: “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” Friends share in each other’s sufferings, and tell each other everything. And what a friend we have in Jesus that we are able to invite him to recline at the tables of our hearts and honestly discuss who we are as flawed humans.
In the Psalms we read, “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” However, when was the last time that as a body of believers we gave Jesus the desire of his heart, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you?” That night the bread and grape juice were passed out in honor of Christ’s sacrifice, and in the joyous chaos of a group of Christian college students sharing a meal and reclining at a table, one seat was left empty out of love for our Savior. We miss him. We wished he could be with us physically as we served the people of Charlotte, and we long for the day when we will no longer need bread and wine to remember his embrace.