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Jan 7 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 5, 2014 – Matthew 26:26-30

 The First Step Into A New Year

While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take,eat; this is My body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”
After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Matthew 26:26-30 

I am always surprised at how quickly this phase of the meal is over. From the outside, the words spoken over the bread and cup do not look like ritual or the forging of a covenant between God and humankind. Jesus acts in ways that are simple and ordinary–blessing the bread, giving thanks for the cup. His speech is concise and direct. For all the build-up to this moment, it almost seems like a skyrocket that flew high above the ground but did not explode.

So why did the first Christians make such a big deal of the Lord’s Supper? Why did it become the central ritual of the church? Why did church fathers expand it into this elaborate, sacred drama? Why did they configure their liturgy around it, so that it is the climax of Christian worship?

Because they sensed in the gift of the bread and cup the profound reality with which Jesus infused it. The Graphic imagery of body and blood stunned them. There was no way Jesus could place himself before them with greater force. Handing them his very life, he said, “From now on, everything rests on Me and your total acceptance of Me.”

God’s covenant with us through Jesus Christ is sealed in his body and blood. Getting this inside of us, where it can purify, heal, and transform us, is the sole objective of our spiritual journey.

Through the centuries, those who knew that the life of Spirit was more than words and became teachers and guides in Christian spirituality, have always recognized the profound potential of the Lord’s Supper. They have always treated it as deeply sacred mystery. They encountered Jesus in the breaking of the bread and sipping from the cup more frequently and consistently than anywhere else. And each time they brought their faith to the communion table, something changed inside them. God took hold of them and their life in him became more real-world and authentic.

Through their experience, they discovered the mystery of incarnation; namely, that what is spiritual touches us through what is physical.

So, Jesus took, blessed it, broke it, and gave it. Then he took the cup and gave thanks for it and gave it. Jesus gave and as he did, he said, “Take.”

Yesterday, after mulling over this passage for awhile, I went outside to work in the yard and rest my mind. The whole time I was outside trimming, weeding, and cleaning up my mess, my thoughts kept returning to that one word, “Take.” It is human nature to eagerly take what appears to be valuable or what we believe will satisfy our discontented souls. It is our nature to take. It is God’s nature to give. Jesus presents himself to us and says, “Take. I am yours.”

What if we do this, what if we take the bread, drink from the cup, and nothing happens? What if we’re as unaware and oblivious as the disciples, who took, and drank, and went outside and fell asleep contrary to Jesus’ desperate request?

First, something happens between God’s Spirit and our spirit when we observe the Lord’s Supper, even if our sluggish minds sleep through it.

Secondly, we do not have to fear the experience of nothingness. God is not rendered helpless when we sit in emptiness, but he works in our nothingness. He works with our nothingness.

When I go to work on a project, I begin by collecting supplies–perhaps lumber, nails, glue, and several rolls of duct tape. From these materials, I make something. When God begins a project, he uses nothingness–this is the material with which he makes something.

“. . . God who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist” (Romans 4:17)
“For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

Sometimes when we think God has abandoned us, he has not abandoned us, he has only abandoned our concepts of him. God removes himself from our limited and mistaken ideas. We come to God with ideas about him–our pre-formed theologies. But by sitting quietly and receptively in our nothingness, we give him something else to work with–a blank canvas, a vast emptiness like the first day of creation.

So we enter this new year, bringing to our lips the bread and wine that seals our covenant relationship with God. It is of little importance whether we see visions of angels or observe the ritual feeling nothing. Either way, both us and our new year are placed in the hands of God and all will be well.

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