I love it when the ordinary intersects with the extraordinary, don’t you? For example, right now I’m sitting not more than 5 feet from a blazing, crackling fire, not any different from the many fires we’ve enjoyed through the past winter. Just wood, combined with a spark and oxygen, really…..but at this moment it seems much more than that……
See, the fireplace had been swept clean and the wood was already stacked outside. With the warmer weather it didn’t look like we’d even want another fire until next fall. But tonight as I sat in our slightly chilly family room and settled in to the task of writing “Day 38”, I looked at that empty fire box and I really, really wanted a fire. And much to the credit of my husband and chief fire-tender, he only hesitated slightly when I flashed my best smile and suggested that a fire would be lovely……thus, making this ordinary fire not ordinary at all. It was created out of desire….with effort….and by one with a servant’s heart. So….the flames are brighter, the crackling louder, the aroma deeper….this fire is extraordinary!
Tonight I was blessed to participate in one of my very favorite gatherings that mark this week between Palm Sunday and Easter. This day of holy week is commonly called Maundy Thursday, but really just commemorates the last time Jesus sat around with his friends and followers and shared a meal. If when you hear the words “The Last Supper” images of the famous Da Vinci fresco fill your head, I invite you to take another look at what this famously recognized meal more likely looked like, and more importantly, what it might still represent…..
Unlike the famous image of a long, long table with Jesus and his disciples all sitting on one side looking forward, as if sitting for a portrait, this evening looked more like a meal at your house, or mine. (Well, except I prefer to sit at a table to eat rather than lay around on cushions and pillows….that would be rather awkward, don’t you think?) But the point is this was a meal shared among very, very close friends. It was also ceremonial, in that this particular meal was called the Passover supper, and it was celebrated annually in memory of the ancient Hebrews and their escape from the bondage of slavery in Egypt as the angel of death “passed over” their houses. But it was a meal every Jew had eaten every year of their lives since birth. An ordinary passover supper…..until this night……
Jesus took the symbols and words of this ordinary passover meal and began preparing his friends – his family – for his emminent death. He demonstrated the importance of servanthood yet again as he knelt down and washed their feet. He took the ordinary bread and the ordinary wine and placed new importance on these things that would never be looked at in the same way again……
And then he did a most extraordinary thing….he asked that when they were to eat bread and drink wine in meals to come, that they would remember him. Not just the Hebrews and the passover story, but Jesus himself (and the events that would enfold in the next several days, though the disciples could not have understood that at the time.)
My ideas of and experiences with communion have grown some over the years. I believe this is one place where we – the church – do not control or monitor who gathers at this table of remembrance. The invitation to come is given by Jesus himself, and at this table there is grace for all. Whether you celebrate communion annually (such as Passover), quarterly, monthly, once a week (as my faith community does,) with others or in solitude, this meal is meant for all. Here we receive forgiveness – cleansing – hope – healing – renewal …and so much more! Whether you are served wafers or crackers, unleavened matza or French bread from Save Mart (or my favorite, recently served by the youth of our church – tiny little hearts cut with cookie cutters out of sandwich bread!), it all represents the body of Jesus that was broken, literally, and his physical self that he gave fully and completely. And whether or not you drink grape juice or wine or water (or diet coke), when taken in remembrance of Jesus, it all represents the total and complete sacrifice of his life, so that we might have ours.
I know this is more direct that I have tried to make my Lenten blogs – I know I have readers from many different theological perspectives, but this is so very close to my heart – it’s the very essence of my Christian experience, so I pray you’ll understand….
When we gather “at table”, whenever, wherever, however…..we are joined with all others who do the same as one, enormous, body of Christ. It is there that our differences fade into the background and the singular focus is on Christ, and him crucified. Together, we can love the world as Jesus does, even as he demonstrated on that last, ordinary night with his friends.
But, come to think of it, that was no “last supper” at all.
It was just the beginning…..
And THAT is most definitely extrordinary!