“Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread,” says Paul. What a great symbol for the church to contemplate! One bread.
Many churches ironically do not use “one bread” when celebrating the Lord’s Supper. But there are other symbols of unity within their practice if you look closely! Whether it’s individual wafers or many pieces of matza, those churches often focus on unity through practice – they all come forward to the same spot to get the bread, or they are all served and we all eat as one. Because of numbers, many churches have wafers. In those instances often you will find a common cup to capture the symbolism of oneness. There are countless possibilities.
At First Presbyterian in OKC, for instance, we have a common loaf, and a common cup, but we take it one at a time, through a process of intinction (coming forward to dip the bread in the cup).
Whatever the way, we all celebrate we are part of the ONE BODY OF CHRIST!
Just as with the feeding of the five thousand, thanks is given and bread is broken. In breaking the loaf in two we find service for two, break those pieces and we can serve four, etc. The miracle in the feeding of the five thousand is that in breaking it, it seems to multiply. So too with the Lord’s Supper. We have service for more people, but only through the mystical oneness of Christ, and the bounty of the grace of his own body being broken. Suffering and joy meet at the table.
Today is Maundy Thursday. It is a day when most of our churches celebrate the Last Supper. “Take. Eat. This is my body. Take and drink. Remember me.” The betrayal. The Garden of Gethsemane. The arrest. We are on a crash course with the cross.
And while some churches do foot washing or other rites, many of us find ourselves called to the table. There in the midst of friends and family, we find ourselves drawn back 2,000 years through this ancient ritual of the Lord’s Supper, and we find ourselves sitting with Jesus.
We examine our own lives, and seek the oneness to which we were called.
This meal was most probably tied in with the Jewish Passover meal, although passover meals look much different than they did back then when Temple sacrifice was still in order.
I remember my first Seder experience, an invitation to dine with orthodox Jewish friends in Israel. I just recounted parts of this story a couple days ago. I remember the seriousness they had about this meal – hardly like the haphazard reenactments some churches treat the Lord’s Supper. With my Jewish friends we were all thrust into the heart of the story! We recounted the story of Moses and the deliverance across the Red Sea. We plugged up the kitchen sink. With water was spilling out on the floor, I gasped. “Shouldn’t we fix the sink now?”
“No! Not until someone parts the Red Sea so we can flee from Pharaoh and the army,” was the response to my question. Now that’s my prayer for Maundy Thursday! That is how engaged I want us to be in our story tonight! To become the story.
We are not looking back 2,000 years. We ARE back 2,000 years. We are one of the 12 disciples. We are passing one another the cup, praying not to betray our Lord, or denying him three times. We are there with Jesus, and with the saints of every time and place, breaking bread, and bound together in the blood of the NEW covenant.
One of the ways our community is celebrating this aspect of “becoming part of the story” is the Guided Labyrinth Walk I will lead at 5pm and 6pm today. It is entitled “Manna in the Wilderness” when we will BECOME those wandering pilgrims in Exodus. Perhaps God will feed us along the way. We will then depart to the chapel to encounter Jesus at the Last Supper.
Holy Week is a time to pause from our crazy-busy lives and hear once again those mystic words of the one who came and died for us, even those of us who feel we have fallen short: “This is my body, broken for thee…. This is my blood, shed for thee for the forgiveness of sin.”
And the Lord handed me the cup.