Brothers and sisters, from where have you come?Such was the question that greeted us as we prepared to share Communion in our Maundy Thursday. Those of us scattered across the sanctuary had come from different places. The answer we were called to give in unison was compelling:
We have come from the dust, and from the earth, and from the breath of God.I had spent the afternoon digging in the dirt, planting azaleas and hydrangeas and camellias and gardenias and all the other things that ought to grace the front yard of a Southern home. I looked down at my hands to see the dirt still under my fingernails. One of the reasons I love gardening is because of how it has helped me deal with my depression. Something about digging in the dirt centers me, encourages me – and it appears to be at an existential and theological level: I am handling the very building blocks of my existence. The difference between me and the topsoil is breath. God’s breath. Ginger begins most every service as she did tonight, inviting us to sit still and then “Breathe in the breath of God; breathe out the love of God.” It is a distilled metaphor of the flow of life: from breath to love, all belonging to God. As we sat in the pew, I could feel the air in my own lungs and hear my breathing, thanks to my allergies. The questions continued:
And why have you come?Again, none of us was there for the same reason, or so I assumed. I was one of the readers in the Tennebrae service; I was also there because I love this service as much as any during the year. And, again, we were called to answer in unison:
We have come to receive the bread and the cup: the bread and the cup of promise, the bread and the cup of remembrance, the bread and the cup of hope.Tonight after church, Ginger and I went to Six Plates, a wonderful wine bar here in town, to celebrate our twenty-first anniversary. We ordered the cheese plate, as we always do when we go there. Tonight, Manchego cheese was one of the offerings. It reminded me of the Manchego crème brulee I had at the Magnolia Grill on my first birthday in Durham. It was amazing. When I mentioned it, we began recalling great meals and dishes we had had together. Life happens around the table, in the making of meals and memories, in the sharing of food and friendship. And, on this night, it all came down to a meal for Jesus and those who loved him.
What is the bread and the cup of promise?Twenty-one years ago, Ginger and I looked into each other’s eyes and made promises. Outrageous promises. We used time tested words about better and worse, richer and poorer, sickness and health without knowing what lie ahead. We were mostly committing ourselves to grow into the promises. I read the passage tonight that described Peter denying he even knew Jesus – not once, but three times, each one more vociferous. Then he heard the rooster and remembered he had promised he would be true to the end. In the next week or two, we will read the story of the next meal Jesus and Peter shared together – a meal in which the promise was restored because of who Jesus was in his life.
The bread and the cup of promise is Christ Jesus our Lord. We come to receive the promise of his life in ours.
What is the bread and cup of remembrance?Most any time I come to Communion and we talk of remembering, I think of a youth camp many years ago when Kenny, who was the camp pastor, asked us to identify the opposite of remember, to which most answered, “Forget.”
The bread and cup of remembrance is Christ Jesus our Lord. We have come to remember Jesus and his life in ours.
“No,” he said. “The opposite of remember is dismember: to take apart. When we re-member Jesus in this meal, we put the Body of Christ back together again. Last weekend, Ginger and I sat around a table with Jay, Cherry, Julie, and Diane, who are our accumulated and intentional family. Over the years, we have chosen to put ourselves together and the bonds run deep. The call to re-member we are one in the Spirit is a call to remember love is an act of will, not an emotion.
What is the bread and the cup of hope?Jesus shared the bread and cup with his disciples and was dead by the middle of the next afternoon. They knew nothing of Easter. They only knew the one they had trusted had been executed among common criminals. They ran. They hid. They went fishing. They went to the tomb. When it comes to acting out the Easter story, we know the Cross is not the Last Word. As Tony Campolo has preached more times than he can remember, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming . . . . In our daily lives, we, like the disciples, have no idea what tomorrow holds. We know only the pain and promise we find in today, and the hope we have mustered and saved from days gone by, based on the love we have found to be true. Or, perhaps untrue. Hope is keeping on. We hope when we set the alarm clock for tomorrow morning, when we plan whatever’s next, when we look beyond all that so easily besets us, when we sit down together for dinner.
The bread and the cup of hope is Christ Jesus our Lord. We have come to renew our hope in him and his life in ours.
After we answered the questions, we prayed and then we sang:
Lord I want to be like Jesus in my heartAnd then we shared our meal of promise, remembrance, and hope together and went out into the night, knowing tomorrow is the day that marks God’s magnificent defeat,
Lord I want to be like Jesus in my heart
In my heart in my heart
Lord I want to be like Jesus in my heart
and knowing we will gather again on Sunday morning for Resurrection and pancakes.