For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 RSV
This Sunday, we’ll be celebrating Holy Communion; it happens to be the only Communion Sunday in Lent for many (if not most) United Methodists, so I always think it’s worthy of a little extra reflection on how we understand this holy meal... because not all Christians understand the Eucharist as we do. Some Christians understand the Lord’s Supper as a “sign act” - an act that signs or points toward Jesus Christ. Of course, it would be hard to argue with that, but for Methodists, there’s a whole lot more going on. In common with our brothers and sisters who are Lutherans, and Episcopalians, and Catholics, we believe that Jesus Christ is actually present at the meal and in the meal. In other words, there’s more happening at the Table than remembrance (as important as that is) or even re-enactment of the Last Supper; there’s re-presentation, in the sense that when we eat the bread and drink the cup, Jesus is re-presenting himself, or making himself present again. Yes, the Risen Christ is with us always, even to the end of the age, and is present with us throughout worship in particular; but for those of us who receive the bread and the cup, the Lord is “made known to us in the breaking of bread” in a way that surpasses all others.
None of this ever made much sense to me until the month before my first appointment began. After having worked my way through Duke Divinity School as a nanny (I know; strange but true), the time came for me to say goodbye to the three young ladies I’d cared for over the last 3&1/2 years. I loved those girls. Many years later, I presided at the weddings of two of them. Saying goodbye was hard to do, and tears were shed by all of us. The youngest of the three had made me a farewell gift, a bracelet. As I slipped it over my wrist, I said, “What a beautiful thing you’ve made for me, Ashley. When I wear it, it will be almost as if you are with me.” “Oh, no,” she said, smiling beatifically, “when you wear it, I will be with you.”
And then I got it: every time we “eat this bread and drink this cup,” it’s not as if Jesus were with us; Jesus really is with us. Lucky us. Blessed us. Grateful us. Our Savior Christ is with us. Praise the Lord!
“Here, O My Lord, I See Thee Face to Face”
UMH #623, stanzas 1 and 4
Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face,
here would i touch and handle things unseen;
here grasp with firmer hand eternal grace,
and all my weariness upon thee lean,
Too soon we rise; the symbols disappear,
the feast, though not the love, is past and gone.
The bread and wine remove; but thou art here,
nearer than ever, still my shield and sun.
Pastor Susan Pate Greenwood