We do this every week.
You’d think that there would be times when it becomes routine, that the constant repetition would make it feel ordinary. And of course you’d be right. Part of being human is losing our grip on the meaning of what we see and do everyday.
But that’s simply our human weakness. This thing we do is so much more than custom. It is infused with depth and meaning and weight.
Every week my church takes some bread and remembers that Jesus came to this place and walked among us. God became human. He took on skin and bones and hair and had blood running through his veins so when you cut him he’d bleed and had a mother and cried as a baby and experienced emotions and had friends who he gave nicknames to and went to parties and laughed and ate and experienced life just like I do.
Every week we take some wine (ok, it’s just grape juice for us, but we call it wine) and we remember that Jesus suffered here, too. He had the fully-rounded experience of life. People got mad at him and spoke ill of him. There were people who disagreed with him so much that they had the Romans put him on trial and kill him on an execution stake.
Every week my church gathers around a table and everyone takes some of that bread and that wine and we remember that Jesus rose from the dead and offers all of us hope.
Your church probably does something similar.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians once about this. He gave them an idea about how this routine was supposed to go:
So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 1 Corinthians 11:28-29
I heard these verses a lot growing up. They served as a warning that we should look inside ourselves and understand how unworthy we all are to sit at that table. That we should examine ourselves and the sin we carry and take this meal with solemnity.
Which is good, I guess. If that’s what Paul was talking about.
Paul instead is talking about the divisions among them. There were some who thought themselves better than others, so they would have their own separate meal. They weren’t all gathering around a common table and were using this beautiful ritual simply as another way to rank themselves. They were missing the point.
So Paul tells them to be careful. That’s not what the bread and the wine are about.
There is a reason my church gathers around the table each Sunday. There is a message there, a reminder that you and I need to encounter every single week.
We all gather around one table. We each take some bread and some wine — and there’s nothing more ordinary, more elemental than bread and wine. We remember that God came down as a human, the same type of human as each one of us. And we see that everyone has a seat. Everyone is welcome. We are there to honor the one who came down to us, who gave his life to bring us all together. And we’re supposed to take care and honor one another.
That bread and that wine gives my life meaning and purpose.
It reminds me that all bread and wine are holy because it’s all a gift. And so the rest of it — the rocks and the trees and the mountains and the sunshine and the laughter and the pain and the suffering and the celebration and every person that I see and touch and meet — it’s all infused with meaning.
And my purpose it to love and honor it all. To honor each person’s seat at the table because it’s right there next to mine. That’s my purpose. I need to remember that.
So today, may you eat something as average as bread and drink something as mundane as wine. May you be reminded at the God who has injected meaning and life into everything you see and touch. And may we all honor God by loving each other well.