Matthew 26:26–29 (NRSV)
26 While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
As we kick off Stewardship season, we start with this passage. It’s about the Lord’s Supper. Side note: I’m pretty excited about this series the next few Sundays. Are stewardship theme has lots of food imagery…our church loves food…and it’s appropriate the stewardship season also has the Mett Sausage dinner happening!
Food is meant to be a sign of nourishment…as well as a token of friendship, of hospitality. In Antiquity, when you offer food to someone, or invite them over for dinner, it’s a huge deal. You are extending friendship to them. And, receiving the invitation is just as important as giving it. It signifies that you are open to the friendship.
Today’s passage is specifically about the last supper. The meal that Jesus invited his disciples, his friends to come to…
As I’ve been reading about this passage this week, and pondering about. I looked at the book of John, the gospel written by the “disciple that Jesus loved”. As many of you know, I’ve been spending a lot of time reconnecting with my Celtic heritage. Celtic spirituality has a lot to say to us these days. It gives us the picture of a loving and expansive God that is connected to us, to all things and all people. In Celtic tradition, John the disciple is called “John the Beloved”. He is one of the favorite disciples in Celtic tradition because of his sense of relational connectedness to Jesus, to the Divine, to others. And, he was one of only two disciples to stay at the cross while Jesus was having violence and humiliation inflicted upon him, the other disciple being Mary Magdalene.
At the last supper, John is depicted at one point as leaning his head upon Jesus’ shoulder or breast. He knew Jesus loved him, he received it, and he gave it back to Jesus.
I think that this picture of John and Jesus at the last supper gives us a picture of surrendering to growth of a deeper kind.
You see, John, like the rest of the apostles, disciples, and followers of Jesus had spent a lifetime hoping for something grand to happen, to be a part of something that would change their world. For three years they had followed Jesus, putting on him their hopes and dreams. They had an agenda. Or so they thought.
But, Jesus is telling them something more. That they are his body, a universal body. They are to be fed by being connected to all things and all people. That their lives are also in a flow of God’s self giving of God’s self into them. The bread, giving sustenance, and showing that as God is broken, we, the body of Christ, are also broken. We have to lean into the sadness, the shadow of our own lives…as well as the world’s. The blood, Jesus pouring out his life by the violence of this world, being broken and bleeding…naked, exposed to the world…yet, in that symbol, finding life.
John is not only hearing this, but experiencing this. And, in so doing, he is finding that He, John, is the body, and is also life of God within and without. John knows that he is loved in spite of everything that he had been through…he knew he was loved.
This image reminds me of a time that I had with my spiritual director, Fr. Bollman, a few months ago…actually, maybe even a year or so ago. It was a pretty emotional session. I had expressed this deep sense of love and being loved…even in the midst of so much change in my life. It was a very different time in my life, yet I was experience a sense of surrender. Of being in complete freedom and not in control at all. I was entering a sense of universal Presence…of deepening love. At the end of the session, as I was saying goodbye, Fr. Bollman, this great Catholic leader in Cincinnati, leaned over and put his head on chest and gave me a blessing. Reminding me that I was the image of God to him. I felt the same way. In that moment, it was Jesus’ head on my chest.
Friends, YOU are the body of Christ. You are the image of God. You are made OF God, not just created! God’s lifeblood flows through you!
It’s a mystery how all of this works in our lives. And we are called to be “mystics”. Faith is not real if we strive to be certain or live for certainty. Faith is alive when we have lost everything. Fr. Bollman asked me this week if “my congregation was ready to be a people of mystics”? Are we? Only you can answer that. I think there are many of us that are…we are asking questions and desiring a differing way to live…and allowing our “true selves” to emerge.
We can not understand the ways or wisdom of God. Nor could John, but we can live in love and grow into deeper places as we surrender to the moment. But, we have to be willing to be disappointed, and to lean into that disappointment, to embrace it even. To let go of our agendas. To think and act out of a deep love for self and others. To allow the flow of God to do just that…flow through our lives and lead us towards deeper places of being.
Friends, we, the church, the body are having to redefine ourselves. We are tired. Our agenda and our visions may have to be let go of…the world is looking for something more than what we have offered out of a sense of ego. The world is asking for us to show our true selves. And, to do that, we have to simply rest in God’s belovedness and let something new emerge. The church needs to be rebirth-ed in this new day. We need a rebirthing in our own lives. This takes risk. But, God is inviting us to come to the table, to come together in unity, not for some program or event, but all that we can of our very lives to this table. To offer friendship to one another and to receive it. Not only in this congregation, but the community around us.
May it be so.