While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.
Contained in these few brief words, we have Jesus’ institution of an ordinance that would persevere throughout Christian history. Over the centuries, the way the faithful have understood this holy communion has changed. But very few would question its importance as a central ritual that has sustained countless believers across space and time.
And it is an eating event.
I believe that is significant. That Jesus would choose to establish a church practice for time immemorial that is an eating act necessarily assumes that food and spirituality are connected. I chose Mark’s version of the Lord’s Supper because it is in all likelihood the earliest gospel account. And as a result, this recounting of the sacred meal is the least elaborated on. The wording is urgent and terse. “Take it, this is my body.”
Jesus could have chosen any number of ritualistic acts as a means for remembering his sacrifice. He could have told us to lay on our backs in cruciform fashion for a prescribed period of time. He could have commanded us to weekly say out loud, “I remember Jesus’ death and resurrection,” five times. Really fast. He could have even had us sit cross-legged and simply meditate on the glorious truth of Jesus’ atoning death.
But he didn’t.
Instead, he chose to connect our remembrance of his covenant-establishing death and resurrection to the simple act of eating and drinking. Bread and wine. This very earthy, mundane, natural action – eating – is the sacrament that is present at the gathering of the worshiping community. Some less frequently than others. But even infrequently observed it is (or can be) an incredibly powerful spiritual event. It is a holy act. It is a sacrament.
According to Wikipedia, a sacrament is defined as “a rite in which God is uniquely active,” or “a tangible symbol which represents an intangible reality.” This Holy Meal is something that the Church through Jesus’ command is suppose to observe in order to remind us of specific Christian truths. Namely, that in Christ, God has lavished his grace on us, and that clothed in the faith(fulness) of Christ we are loved and forgiven.
However, without taking away one ounce from the sacredness and uniqueness of the Lord’s Supper, every supper contains sacramental potential. For something to be sacramental (as opposed to Sacrament), it simply needs to be an action that reminds us of some truth about God. And from that perspective, all of life begins to open up with sacramental possibilities. The mundane is transformed into something that orients us towards the divine. Anything. A shower can remind us of being washed clean by God’s mercy. Observing a mountain sunset becomes an opportunity to reflect on the grandeur of God. Conversation with a friend can remind us that God reveals himself. He communicates. He speaks. Sex… well, the list goes on.
But we are talking about food here, so let’s be clear. The Lord’s Supper is sacrament. Supper is sacramental. That is to say that each meal becomes an opportunity to reflect on God’s gracious provision for us. The variety of food we enjoy reminds us that God’s creativity is limitless. Meals geared towards celebration draw attention to the shear joy of the Lord. And as we’ve seen before… meals both reflect and draw us into community.
My friends, I hope you’ll forgive a verse taken only very slightly out of context as I admonish you with the words of Paul…
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31