A feast for the beloved betrayers

bread and juice for communionEvery year in the week leading up to Easter, I read the stories of Jesus’ crucifixion in the Gospels. After so many readings, I know how the story ends.

Even so, I find myself wishing for an interruption in the story. I’m like Peter in Matthew 16 who wants to deny that suffering will happen to Jesus. I want Pilate to stand up to the religious leaders. I mutter to myself about the folks eager to get Jesus crucified, and somehow I pray each time they find some hidden capacity for grace and love over fear.

Resurrection — yes, please! But this crucifixion part, I struggle to look full on in the face. Continue reading

All Wound Up Together: Communion, Family and Feeling Loved

God met me this weekend.  Last week as I was preparing to speak with my pastor for the first time, I was highly nervous. Part of that was a struggle to discern what God had to say to me in the topic.  So, I asked a few friends to pray that God would show me what the message was for me.

Well, God delivered.  Not what I expected.  Not anything related to the topic I was speaking on.  But, over the past two days, I’ve had one of the most powerful God moments of my life.  I’m overwhelmed.  I even started writing poetry again for the first time in ten years (Meme, if you’re reading this, you’ll probably be thrilled about that, though the poem itself is rusty and clunky. Further, no, I’m not showing it to anyone at this point, possibly ever.).

It all began with communion Sunday morning.

Continue reading

Grape Juice Prompts Profound Moment

Earlier this evening, I was watching the Super Bowl and eating dinner with a group of our friends. Meanwhile, with my dinner I was drinking grape juice. Within two sips, I had a flashback to drinking grape juice during communion. These days the only time I drink grape juice is for communion, and so I was instantly transported to that place.

In my head I heard the words “This is my blood, shed for you for the remission of sins.” And I remembered an essay I wrote awhile back, “Finding Jesus in a Cracker”. Suddenly this simple moment in a busy environment became an opportunity to experience Jesus’s presence. To see him amongst us as we ate and talked and watched sports.

It’s no secret that I’ve been writing some about my mother in the past couple of weeks, and there’s a couple of things that stick out to me. The first is an observation that my writing about Mom says more about me, than it does about her. And I miss my mother as a functional thing, more than as a person. If I’m being honest, I don’t remember her so much as I remember stories about her. And to be even more blunt, I have absolutely no idea who I would be if she hadn’t died. Her illness and it’s effects on my family life were a major contributor to who I’ve become. I’m not angry or sad at this point, I’m more curious and trying to put together pieces.

But the other concept that keeps coming back to me ties in with my developing thoughts on Communion in church. Strange, I know. And I can’t remember if I’ve blogged on this before, or if I’ve just stewed so much on it that I think that I have. I so associate popcorn with my mother, that I can’t eat it without thinking of her. And I love popcorn; I eat it at least once a week. And for 30 seconds or so, my mother is with me as I take my first handful, or as I hear the kernels popping. She’s brought into the present moment.

(And I can’t eat vanilla yogurt with frozen blueberries without thinking of a friend who’s moved away. Without fail, 3-4 times a week, I think of her as a result.)

That’s how I think communion should be.

Finding Jesus in a Cracker

Often I’m prone to think of God speaking in grandiose gestures and signs. I want thunderclaps from the sky or a bright neon sign showing me the road to go. And on rare occasion that happens for me. Well, maybe not the neon sign part.

Speaking of grandiose signs, all throughout Luke in my Bible are notes and underlinings at those miraculous moments or pointed rebukes from Jesus. But then, the passage on the Road to Emmaus was suspiciously pristine in my Bible, other than a note saying I’d heard a sermon on it at Bethel Chapel in 2002. The road to Emmaus was a bit too murky and ordinary for me to listen to it’s message.

And yet, it’s in the midst of ordinary things that an extraordinary encounter happens. That eyes are opened, and lives are changed.

Two disciples walk down the road to Emmaus feeling overwhelmed by the events of Jesus’s death. Can they believe Mary Magdelene who says Jesus is risen, or is she just a nutcase? And at this point, they’re leaning towards the Mary is crazy theory. Jesus’s body is missing; that’s all they can go on right now. It’s the third day since Jesus rose again, and they have not gotten the big sign in the sky. There’s no major sign for them that today is better that 3 days ago. No visible sign that redemption is forthcoming. They’re trying to believe (and failing) in something they can’t see or quantitfy.

And then they meet a man on the road. One that has been disguised to them. In a day of walking along roads, this wouldn’t be an abnormal occurence. The man challenges them and teaches the Scriptures about the Messiah. He boosters their confidence and rebukes their unbelief (in a nurturing way, not a punishing one). And yet, the men are unable to recognize him. But there’s something about him, they just can’t let go of yet.

So they urge him into staying with them. They sit down to eat, and then the stranger breaks the bread and gives thanks for it before them. And suddenly the disciples remember and recognize the man– it is Jesus! Something in the simple act of breaking bread allowed them to recognize Jesus among them.

As soon as the disciples recognize Jesus, he vanishes. They’re incredulous. Just when they thought they couldn’t process anymore, there’s a new twist. And yet, the disciples are changed in this instant. It marks the beginning of a new journey.

Some claim that this passage demonstrates why it’s important to celebrate communion regularly at church. But I think it claims something even higher. I think it is a calling for churches to celebrate communion in such a way that we take the memory home. That when we take out bread to make a sandwich, we think of the bread at the communion table. And for 10 seconds or so are reminded of Jesus in our life. That I might recognize who Jesus is to me, whenever a cracker breaks when I spread cheese on it. That an ordinary encounter with bread in my daily life becomes an opportunity to celebrate communion–simply because it evokes a memory of who Jesus is and what’s he done.

What extraordinary things might happen if for a mere 30 more seconds a day, I’m more focused on how Jesus is here–than how he’s not?