Sunday, July 03, 2005

The Patriots and the Eucharist

In church this morning we took the Eucharist. As I sat there searching for the "presence" of Christ in a half burnt cracker, I saw the New England Patriots insignia ( Perhaps this Texan has been a New England transplant too long? Although the Pats weren't my first thought, this observation was followed by the recent and ridiculous media preoccupation with someone's toast that looked like Michael Jackson. (Even the worldclass BBC carried the article for two days. If you want to bid on the toast, I think it might be for sale on Ebay.)

What should we see when we look at the cracker, at the bread? Prior to observing the NE Patriots symbol, I had been contemplating the past and future implications of the Eucharist, in order to relish its present significance.

When John records Jesus' words about eating his flesh and drinking his blood, it is in the context of complaining. The Jews had been complaining to the Messiah, which was really nothing new. They had complained in the wilderness to YHWH, where they were dissatisfied with their diet
(6:41,43; cf. Ex 16:7-8 LXX). It was there God responded with the judgment-provision of manna. Complaining is a form of unbelief. It is wholesale rejection of God's provision and providence in life, whether pleasant or unpleasant, health or no health, life or death. Similar to the manna, the Eucharist conveys judgment and salvation to its recipients. For those that trust YHWH's Son it is salvation and for those that reject Him, it is condemnation. When I contemplate the crusty cracker, I see more than the Pats and Michael Jackson, I see judgment and salvation, rejection and acceptance, failure and forgiveness, Jesus and YHWH.

And there's even more to our toast than Michael and manna. When Paul talks about taking the Lord's supper, he writes: "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death
until He comes." (1 Cor 11.26) Interestingly, in addition to the past implications, there are future implications for the Eucharist. We are not only to do it in remembrance of Christ, but also "until He comes." The Christian life, although rendered possible by the past, isnt meant to be lived there. We don't just "accept Jesus into our hearts and ask for forgiveness" and that's it. There is infinitely more to this relationship with the Lord of Life. We are meant to look back to the cross for the foundation for our faith, as well as forward for the future of our faith, namely Jesus. If we want eternity with Him, we must want his return. Some days that is really hard and "far off," but that's what things like the Eucharist are for; they are special opportunities and graces to receive more from God in our journey with and toward Jesus. What do you see when you look at the bread, at the cracker? Do you see backwards and forwards, past and future?


At 10:12 PM , Blogger Faye said...

This really resonates with me, Jonathan, having had similar times of reflection. I've been re-reading Future Grace by Piper and meditating on the many promises of God. The Spirit is teaching me to trust more and more in God's future grace. Communion for me has usually consisted of thoughts about God's past grace in the sacrifice of Jesus. But this Sunday (while taking Communion at church in Chiang Mai) I found myself thinking more and more about the future grace that is to come, promises that are declared "Yes" in Jesus. What a glorious thing!

At 12:20 PM , Blogger james said...

I think best means of seeing the "backwards and forwards" in the Eucharist is the means by which we partake of this meal in community.

There's just something about sharing the communion wine, serving it to another brother or sister, all the while looking them in the eye, eating the meal face to face, knowing from whence this Christian brother/sister came, and looking forward to the journey together.

I'm glad to have found and rejoin the both of you through this medium of blogging. I look forward to standing beside the both of you at the table someday, declaring His coming again.

At 12:58 PM , Blogger Jonathan Dodson said...

yes, community is the context for the eucharist, a powerful reminder of the relational reconcilaiton, both vertically and horizontally. the "backwards and forward" dimensions of the eucharist are reinforced when looking at one another, serving one another, etc. I wish our current church approached communion more communally. truth and community make a great blend, don't they?


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