“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
1 Corinthians 11:26
Thursday, 1 April 2021
1 Corinthians 11:26
Today we celebrate Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples. The readings are rich and strange, strange because they seem to leave things out. In the Exodus reading (Chapter 12) we have the instructions on how to hold the Passover meal – but no actual account of the Israelites’ Passover from slavery in Egypt to freedom. In John’s gospel (Chapter 13) Jesus washes his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper – demonstrating that the only leadership worth having is leadership by service, by deeds, not words. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) gives us the words Jesus uses at the last supper – in the context of warning the Christian community against celebrating the Eucharist in the wrong spirit.
Very strange stuff, but it makes sense.
First, incompleteness. Every Eucharist we celebrate must be incomplete because like the Israelites in Egypt we are not in the reign of God in its fullness yet. Second, impropriety. We can celebrate the Eucharist improperly – even if we stick to all the rules and words our churches set down for us – if we celebrate in the wrong kind of spirit. This varies in form but usually boils down to a spirit of irreverence.
By this I do not mean some kind of lack of faith in Christ’s presence, so much as a mentality of being the truly holy ones, an arrogance about ourselves as ‘saved’ true believers, to the exclusion of others less worthy. So often I sense the Eucharist being celebrated as a kind of triumphalist assertion of our power. Which is a bit weird, given what happened shortly after the Last Supper!
Finally, the gospel calls us to translate worship into action. Into service of others. The Eucharist should us give strength to act. In every Eucharist, we return to the Last Supper so that we go out and serve the world around us. This is not an option, something we might try. ‘Do…or do not. There is no try.’