- Camellia Flanagan
At the Supper of the Lord
Exodus 12;1-4.. 11-14 Ps 116:1-2. 11-18, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, John 13:1-17, 31b – 35
+ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
When the Lord’s Supper was celebrated in the early church, it included a feast or fellowship meal followed by the celebration of Communion. This was the traditional Friday evening Sabbath eve meal which is still celebrated by Jewish people all over the world in our time. In the church in Corinth the fellowship meal had become a time when some ate and drank excessively while others went hungry. There was little sharing and caring. This certainly did not demonstrate the unity and love that should characterise the church, nor was it a holy preparation for Communion. Saint Paul condemned these actions and reminded the church of the real purpose of the Lord’s Supper.
What did the Lord’s Supper mean? The early church remembered that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper on the night of the Passover meal. Just as Passover celebrated deliverance from slavery in Egypt, so the Lord’s Supper celebrates deliverance from sin by Christ’s death. Christians pose several different possibilities for what Christ meant when he said. ”This is my body” Some were believing that the bread and wine became Christ’s physical body and blood. Others believed that the bread and wine remain unchanged, but Christ is spiritually present with the bread and wine. Still others believe that the bread and wine symbolize Christ’s body and blood. Christians generally agree that participating in the Lord’s Supper is an important element in the Christian faith and that Christ’s presence, however it is understood strengthens us spiritually.
On the night of the institution of this special use for bread and wine Jesus showed the Disciples unparalleled love and service, by washing their feet. He used the symbolism of the bread and wine and a new covenant. To love others was not a new commandment (Leviticus 19:18) but to love others as much as Christ loved others was revolutionary. Now we are able to love others based on Jesus sacrificial love for us. Such love will not only bring unbelievers to Christ, it will also keep believers strong and united in a world hostile to God. Jesus was a living example of God’s love, as we are to be living examples of Jesus’ love.
What is this new covenant? In the old covenant, people could approach God only through the priests and the sacrifice system. Jesus’ death on the cross ushered in the new covenant of agreement between God and us. Now all people can personally approach God and communicate with him. The Holy Spirit enables this. The people of Israel entered into a covenant with God after their exodus from Egypt (Ex 24) and it was designed to point to the day when Jesus Christ would come. The new covenant completes, rather than replaces the old covenant, fulfilling everything the old covenant looked forward to. (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
Physically eating the bread and drinking the wine shows that we are remembering Christ’s death for us and renewing our commitment to serve him.
Spiritually, there is much more to the liturgical act or the work all of us present do, during this Holy celebration of the Eucharist. The word itself is a transliteration which simply put, means thanksgiving. It is also rightly called a mystery because its meaning can never be exhausted. There is always more to the Eucharist than we can fathom. It holds together heaven and earth, humanity and divinity, life and death, past and eternal future.
If we enter into the words, music and sharing of Christ’s body and blood, we will be drawn into the centre of life in Christ. If we deeply involve ourselves in what is happening, we will be touched and we will go out afterward in some way different, than the way we came. In the Eucharist there is a flow of the energy of God’s Holy Spirit that we can be part of.
In the movements of the Liturgy, God reaches towards us, we respond, God comes to us and feeds us and we are sent out into the world.
We come first of all pre-occupied with the happenings of our messy lives and Gather in God’s Name. If we settle and become still, we listen--- “Blessed be God”, “The Lord be with you” “Glory to God in the Highest” we begin to realise that our lives, our joys and sorrows are part of a much larger picture, that not we, but a God of love and power, creator and healer is the real centre of the universe. Our worries seem different as we begin to praise the loving ruler of the universe who has been working in all our lives, all along.
In the Ministry of the Word, the bible readings and teaching, we discover we are not so much the seekers, as those God seeks. We see some part of our life and the world differently as the light of God’s love and judgment enables us to understand the scriptures, and see the world with God‘s eyes. It helps us to see the suffering and injustice of the world and our call to be part of Christ’s healing work.
We respond and offer our cares and concerns in the Prayers of the People, having previously laid before God our failures and brokenness in the confession and received God’s forgiveness in the Absolution. During the offertory we offer ourselves to God; our self, our money, bread and wine. If we allow all that is in our hearts to go to the Altar, Christ will take it and gather it into the love that flows between Him and the One we call God the Father. God comes to us and feeds us, at the Banquet table. We come to the Great Thanksgiving and the Breaking of the Bread, Christ’s Body and Blood. Christ feeds us spiritually with his life and in receiving the Sacrament we are given healing, wisdom for understanding, compassion for God’s world, strength to move on, and deep joy at this love that washes over all of us. If we have brought our real selves to partake in this Sacrament, we will leave it in some way different, perhaps in ways we cannot fully see, but something which has drawn us deeper into the mystery of God’s life, his death and resurrection.
We are sent out immersed in unconditional love and acceptance making us ready to be partners with God. St Augustine once said to his congregation. Become what you eat. We have fed on Christ’s Body; now it is time to be Christ’s Body, filled with Christ’s love, at home, in our recreation and in the work and demands of daily life. Christ taught us in humility to wash one another’s feet, to be loving servants to others. This Holy Sacrament gives us the power and the weakness to do it. Amen.