This was first published last summer as a guest post on my friend Lisa Michaels’ blog, “Fip Flops, Glitter, and Theology.” You can check it out here. I’m so appreciative to Lisa for asking me to write for her, and I thought it was something I should also post here.
Some people call it Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper, or Communion. Each of these names is important, each of them meaningful. The mystery of the body and blood found in the elements of communion is a topic of much discussion and has been for centuries. Most agree it is a means of grace, but we all have a different perspective on what that means. Some say the elements physically or spiritually change into the body and blood of Christ as we partake. Others say they merely represent the body and blood, that any deeper meaning is dependent on our own spiritual condition and understanding. In between lies a spectrum of folks who deny that the substance of the elements change but affirm the presence of Christ in the act of partaking. Whatever you believe about it, we agree it is sacred.
Jesus gathered his friends around the table at Passover and explained what was about to happen. “This is my body,” he said. “It will be broken for you.” “This is my blood, poured out as a new covenant.” In those statements, Jesus not only made clear that the new covenant would be rooted in his death; he also made clear that all of his disciples were welcome at the table. Peter, who would deny Jesus three times that very night, was welcome at the table. Thomas, who would be called the doubter because he didn’t immediately believe in the resurrected Christ, was welcome at the table. Even Judas, the one who had already decided to betray him, was welcome at the table.
When we offer the Lord’s Supper in our communities, we offer it to anyone who is journeying toward Christ. The new convert who doesn’t have it figured out yet, the aged saint whose testimony goes back generations, the visitor who felt like today might be a good time to start going back to church; they are all welcome at the Table. The grace that goes before is present in the elements as we offer them.
As I take my place among millions who have gone before me and stand with me every week, I consider the historic significance of the words I repeat to each one who stands before me to partake, “This is the body of Christ, broken for you; the blood of Christ, spilled out for you.” The sweet lady I know as our missions president approaches, holding her husband’s hand and leading him along to accept the bread and dip it in the juice. He suffers from dementia, but he always has tears in his eyes as he praises God for the grace offered in this moment. My friend Lane rolls up in his wheelchair. We always kneel down a little so he can reach. The big guy who always takes more than one and says “I’m a big boy, I need a lot of Jesus.” The teenager who came with his friend was participating in this ancient practice for the first time. Between tears, I continue to speak the words, “This is the body, broken for you; the blood of Jesus, spilled out for you.” Toward the end of the line, I see my own three kids and my husband. With great emphasis, I speak each of their names, “Toby, this is the body of Christ, broken for you. Malachi, the blood of Jesus, spilled out for you. Leah, take and eat.” The same words have been spoken by celebrants for millennia, the same grace offered to participants.
The precious grace of God invites us all to the table. And at the table, we are all the same. We are sinners in need of a saving God, a broken people in need of the body broken for us. The sinner just beginning to seek Jesus is offered the same grace as the saint just a breath away from Glory. And so it is at the foot of the Cross. When we come to Jesus, every one of us is in need of the healing and restoring grace found in him. And as we continue on the journey, we remain in need of that grace.
I taste the sweet homemade bread soaked in the fruit of the vine, and I see again that the Lord is good.