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The bloody beauty of Communion

“The Lord Jesus, on the night 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.’” While singing a hymn about Jesus, I take a cracker piece from a silver platter and pass it to the Believer next to me. Everyone in the room eats the bread as one, partaking in the first “course” in the Lord’s Supper, otherwise known as Communion or the Eucharist.

Crunch, crunch, mangled flesh. The image revolts me, yet I am chewing this flesh. Raw. It is Jesus’ body, which he sacrificed for me.

“In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me. For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.’” All around me, heads tip backwards as together we sip grape juice from tiny plastic cups. We are proclaiming Christ Jesus’ death. We celebrate the victory of grace Jesus demonstrated when he took our eternal punishment on the Gethsemane cross.

Swallow, gulp, fragrant blood. I shudder; perhaps the woman next to me notices, but she is silent. I detect an aftertaste from the juice. I picture Jesus’ blood on the cross, in my mouth, in my body now, shed for the forgiveness of my sins. For the redemption of the world.

I was raised to view Communion symbolically. I still lean that way. But my Christian Thought class from last spring opened up faith conversations with which I was not always familiar. For example, Roman Catholicism claims we are eating Christ’s actual flesh and drinking his actual blood when we take Communion. This phenomenon known as transubstantiation is derived from Gospel passages like the ones I quoted. Ever since I learned about this, Communion has become a more vivid and powerful reminder of Jesus’ saving sacrifice.

That is the point. At his Last Supper, the Jewish Passover, Jesus began the Christian tradition of Communion, but he never meant for it to be a thoughtless ritual. I do not want to forget his sacrifice despite its physical repulsiveness.

At the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the crowds did not see a handsome, naked man with a perfectly combed beard on some smooth planked pedestal. Nay, they witnessed a bloody, gnarled, practically dismembered body essentially lynched on couple tree branches shaped like a T.

They came to view the humiliation of the two convicts alongside my perfect King, but I don’t know why they were drawn to the inhuman spectacle.

Yet I too am drawn to it, only in a different way. Jesus uses the Communion Table to draw me to himself, for I am part of his body now. His Spirit is in me, and I am his. I do not desire to view his formerly grotesque body in any bloodthirsty manner. Rather, I am grateful, so grateful, that he sacrificed his body for the world and thus for me, so I can spend eternity with God, whole and redeemed and new.

Jesus is full of grace and truth. I must remember him and proclaim his deep love, as demonstrated in his body and blood.

For this reason, I eat his flesh and drink his blood until he returns. And Jesus is coming soon! When he gathers his Church to him and makes all things new, we shall drink wine again in his heavenly kingdom, this time in celebration. The members of his Church, his Body and Bride, will have new bodies. We will be complete and whole, for he is making all things new.

Until then, I remember him. I proclaim his death until his coming. And through his death, I live.

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