Feasting Upon Bread and God's Grace
Maundy Thursday 2008
by Jamie Michaels
The lectionary texts: Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19; John 13:1-17, 31b-35; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
It started out as a joke at my young adult missionary class training. Last summer, as we were eating leftover bread from communion, someone commented about how tasty God's grace is; it is warm and chewy, perfectly accompanied by a few drops of grape juice.
Then, from the crowd of us, someone mused, "What if the grace we received was directly proportional to the amount of communion bread we ate?"
I laughed at first but when the theme of bread and grace came up again, I couldn't shake myself of it. From that time to this, I've considered the thought, "What if bread were our only source of grace?"
Well, practically, once people started making the connection, we'd probably see attendance rise at churches (particularly on the first Sunday of the month). The communion line itself wouldn't be so solemn; we'd probably be jumping for joy. People would come around two or three times just to get a little more of that grace. Our mission focus might change, too. I imagine that when missionaries packed their suitcases, they'd be 90% yeast and flour, 10% other!
Luckily for us, our grace does not come only from bread. It is not only in meal and millet that God blesses us. The meal we share is a living remembrance. God says to us, "Come to this table. Even in something as normal as sharing bread and wine I am with you. I am blessing you always."
According to chapter 13 of John, Jesus and his friends gathered for a meal just before Passover. During supper, Jesus rose from the table and took takes off his outer robe (his jacket, if you will). Then he took a towel and basin of water and began to wash his friends' feet.
Now, I'm sure the disciples were used to Jesus doing some pretty unusual things. They saw him perform miracles, dine with the unclean, defy rules and traditions. Peter had even seen Jesus glowing on the mountain. Now, as then, Peter didn't quite know how to handle the situation. He rightly recognized that Jesus was communicating something about serving one another. Instead of letting Jesus explain his action, Peter jumped ahead: "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" and after a little back and forth, Jesus finally managed the task.
Jesus asked them, "Do you know what I have done to you?... If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you should do as I have done to you."
Jesus was telling his disciples that they, too, could be instruments of God's grace. The work of God was not meant for just one person but for all of God's children. About this, Jesus could not be more clear: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another" (John 13:34).
Let's stop for a minute and imagine that we've just heard these things from our friend, Jesus. We think back on our journey: where were we a year ago? Two years ago? What has happened in our families? How have our paths changed? How has this son of a carpenter, this son of God, influenced us? And more importantly, what must we now do with our lives?
For his last meal, Jesus gathered his friends all together. Even in the midst of grief and struggle, can we sit down with friends, break bread, and remember Jesus? We must. There are times when I feel that receiving grace would be just as painful as bearing my burdens on my own. It is at just these times when I need it most.
EVERY DAY we must remember the example of love Christ set for us. We must remember and give thanks for the grace amply given in so many ways. Above all, we must share our bread and our grace with one another.
Our table is not a place for solitude. So, in good times and in bad, I pick up my loaf of bread, give thanks to God, break it, and share it with my friends. And I remember: to this I was called.
All biblical quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission.
Date posted: Mar 19, 2008