My blog is appearing a bit earlier than usual as having some time away. I was thinking about the readings from scripture that have been running over the last weeks has had a bit to do with food. After talking about the simple squashed sandwich last week, I was reminded that in the Eucharist, as in Baptism, simple elements reveal to us important truths about things deeply important to life. The Christian life has meaning as a life that is lived together in community. So, rituals and symbols remind us of things that are important. This is what the bread and wine, and water and oil, seek to express. That life is ours. Life by its very nature is plural. Life is lived together with one another.
So, life is lived together and for Christians, together with Christ. He dwells in us, and we in him. From the very moment we are baptised, such life is ours. Renewed and reawakened each time we take the bread, eat it, and say, "Amen." Renewed and reawakened each time we look into the chalice and say, "Yes, I will share this cup with others as they share it with me. I will share this cup just as Christ shares his very life with me."
I am reminded of this through the following story. I’m not sure if it is true or apocryphal. A man came in off the streets obviously homeless, and just as obviously "different" than most everyone else present at that lunchtime Communion Service. It was just as the clergy were offering communion to the people. He came skipping down a long and glorious centre aisle, footloose and care free. Right up to the front of the church he skipped, stopping just in front of the Sanctuary party standing at the centre, one with bread and one with wine. He asked, quite plainly, "Is that there the body of our Lord Jesus Christ?" "Yes," answered the celebrant. "And is that there his blood?" "Yes," said the celebrant once again.
"Well then, I guess I will have me some of that!" exclaimed the man. And after eating and drinking the body and blood of Christ, he skipped up the aisle and out the door filled to overflowing with what Jesus calls life. Then, in the familiar and customary fashion, everyone else said their own "yes" to share the cup with each other, with Christ, and with this most extraordinary Eucharist guest! Life lived sharing the common cup!
It had to be that way for Jesus' disciples the night before he died. Something they had done together every day with this man, breaking the bread and sharing the wine, suddenly and quite unexpectedly became a new and extraordinary experience. It was surprising when he said, "This is my body. This is my blood. Whoever eats this bread will live forever!" Suddenly table fellowship took on a whole new meaning.
Although we will never really know what happened that night, we do know it was as surprising and new, just like the homeless stranger who skipped into Church one day, extending the community of one flesh and one body in an entirely new way. We come to the table regularly, not finding it easy to come to it as something new and renewing and reawakening. Over time we tend to come, thinking: we know what this is; we know what this means. We come, we go. And life remains fundamentally the same as when we arrived. But, God says to us, whoever is simple, let them turn in here!
We are to arrive in simplicity and check our bags at the door. Let go of what we "think" this is all about, and experience Eucharist as if for the very first time every time. Be open to whatever surprises our God has in store. The minute we think we "know" we are in trouble. All my stale and old understandings are washed away. I want to preserve this moment and to hold onto this new insight into kingdom living. And then if I am lucky, I realise I am already creating new baggage to carry in the next time I come to this table.
Bread is not a mere commodity; things are not mere bits of matter. We can learn something of this from Jesus Christ, the bread of God which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. When we allow ourselves to come to the table, in simplicity and awe, we find an abundance of life that can be experienced in no other way, at no other time, in no other place. It is food for life. A life lived together in the body of Christ. It is a surprising new life. Life made new.