A Eucharistic People

The heart of Christian worship is the celebration of communion, otherwise known as “the Lord’s Supper” or “the Eucharist.” All other elements of Christian worship are tangential to eating the bread and drinking from the cup in a proclamation of Jesus’ death. Jesus’ body was broken and his blood was shed for the salvation of the world. He did rise from the dead and ascend to the right hand of the Father. Jesus will come again, but before his return, ascension, and resurrection…there was a death, a redemptive death, the death of God’s Son. While I did not grow up in a church that emphasized the importance of the Eucharist, I am happy to be serving today in a church where communion is the highlight of our Sunday morning worship service. We find the eucharistic template in the Upper Room with Jesus celebrating the Passover with his disciples:

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” – Matthew 26:26 ESV

“Eucharist,” from the Greek word meaning “to give thanks,” is the oldest title for this event at the heart of Christian worship. Nearly all Christian denominations practice some form of the Eucharist and there are differing opinions on how exactly the bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ. I have been most satisfied with viewing the practice of the Eucharist as a way to connect with the “real presence of Christ.” I believe Jesus is present, by the Holy Spirit, at the communion table. The Eucharist is therefore more than a symbol, but it is not less than that. The bread and the wine certainly represent, in the form of a living metaphor, the body and blood of Jesus, but I see more. I see another symbol. In the broken bread, I see not only his body broken for the world, but I also see the church, the people of God.

We are a eucharistic people.
We are blessed.
We are broken.
We are given.

We are blessed. We experience God’s blessing (even through hardship) and give him thanks for taking care of us. We have been invited by him to be his people, his alternative society on the earth, demonstrating and proclaiming the Kingdom of God. We are blessed, no doubt.

We are broken. We are broken by sin and corruption; we admit this fact. We are also broken in that we choose to “break” ourselves open to one another. In other words, we choose vulnerability as the pathway of love. We are broken, at least we strive towards brokenness.

We are given. As God’s covenant people we are not blessed and broken ultimately for our well-being. We are blessing and broken that we may be given to the world. Jesus isn’t building his church simply to declare his own superiority over other ways of doing life. He is building his church to be given to the world, for the sake of the world, so that the world may be saved. We are given, at least we work towards being given.

At the center of this three-part eucharistic action is brokenness, or as I have described above, vulnerability. If we are ultimately to be given to the world, and I would argue that this missional identity is perhaps the most difficult part of church life, then we first have to be broken. We do have to admit we have been broken by a world drunk on the ways and means of death, but we have to also break ourselves open, allowing our true selves to break out of the shell of our false selves. We ultimately cannot love and be loved if we are not vulnerable.

It works like this:

To love and to be loved is to trust.
To trust is to know.
To know is to be vulnerable.

I cannot love you and allow you to love me if I do not trust you. I could choose to love you, expecting nothing in return with or without trust, but I cannot enter in a relationship with you whereby I love and am loved unless I can trust you. If I think you mean to do me harm or exploit me, then I cannot allow myself to be loved by you.

I cannot trust you until I know you, until I really know you. In order to trust you I need to know more than facts about you, I need to have first hand experiences with you whereby trust is built. Once I have gotten to know you over time, then I am ready to trust you.

And finally, I cannot know you, and you cannot know me, until we both bust through our false selves and reveal who we really are. This is difficult.

To be vulnerable mean I reveal not only my strengths, but also my fears, hurts, insecurity, anxiety, weakness, struggle, doubt, confusion, ignorance, failure, mistakes, regrets, and pain. Loving begins with vulnerability, but becoming vulnerable is a slow process. I do not reveal all of my true self to you all at once. As I break myself open and expose a part of my true self, I allow you to know me and then after trust is built, I feel free to reveal more. Vulnerability grows over time, but it begins with one crack of the crust.

As we are broken, then we are given as a eucharistic people.