March 29, 2018
Holy week illustrates the incredible highs and lows of the spiritual life, of Jesus’ life! From the adrenaline rush of Palm Sunday to the settling darkness of Maundy Thursday, from the suffering of Good Friday to the unbridled joy of Easter Sunday morning: the whole Gospel experience, the whole destiny of the universe is compacted into these days.
As one illustration of these contrasts, we will celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper twice during Holy Week. The Sacrament is the same in one sense and yet, very, very different. The bread and the wine will be the same. Same plates and bowls. Same words of introduction. Same method of partaking (intinction) in both cases.
However, the mood or “spirit” surrounding the meal couldn’t be more different. I would like to point out that there is no one “right” way to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Through the history of the Christian church, there have been a wide variety of elements used (fish in the early church at times!), vessels employed, time allotted, and words said. Different churches in different places have had different preferences. God be praised. Thank God for freedom and flexibility.
On Maundy Thursday at Elmhurst CRC, we had a somber, serious reflective observance of the Lord’s Supper together. On Thursday, our worship sought to recollect the events that happened in the Upper Room all those years ago. Jesus and his disciples gathered for a Passover Meal. Jesus washed the feet of ALL the disciples. Jesus put himself into the traditional Passover story as the Lamb of God. Finally, Jesus served them the meal but let them know that the bread now was his body and the wine was now his blood. When the disciples had finished eating this meal, they departed into the dark of night, which included terrors, trouble, and temptations. They would desert their Master as he was arrested, beaten, and ultimately crucified. Our Communion on Maundy Thursday fit this dark part of the Gospel story.
On Easter Sunday, the mood will be the polar opposite: joy filled, thankful, hearts pounding with surprise and gratitude. In the vast majority of Christian churches, Easter is the ultimate Communion celebration. In the Reformed tradition of which ECRC is a part, this celebratory approach to the Lord’s Supper is not our native language. We have forgotten that Communion can be joyful, too!
We should not forget that on the original Easter Sunday, Jesus walked with two disciples on the road to Emmaus, ate with them, and was recognized “in the breaking of the bread.” The resurrected Jesus redeemed the meal. We should not forget that the resurrected Jesus made breakfast for his distracted disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. He made them bread. He cooked fish. He ate and drank and forgave Peter for his denial and lack of faith. He added a layer of meaning to the sorrow of that Passover meal in the Upper Room, a similar meal but now layered with forgiveness, freedom and restoration on the other side of the tomb.
You are invited to take, eat, remember and believe this Holy Week. You are invited to walk every step of the way with Jesus. You are invited to do so with sorrow and humble repentance the first time around. You are invited to do so with joyful abandon and awe the final time.
Peace to you as you walk every step of the way.