Today I shared in the special “Remember me” meal that Jesus told us to share in for the first time in a very long time.
Although I haven’t been completely ‘church-less’ since the last time, I’ve shared in worship with the Salvation Army, who, for very understandable historical reasons, don’t celebrate communion, and although the small group that we meet with regularly loves to share food and drink together, as far as I can remember we’ve never shared that meal.
I joined the celebration at the home of the Northumbria Community, of which I used to be a very committed part, and to which I have been drawn again in the way that our life’s journey so often takes us back to places where we started out.
The tiny chapel was filled with members of the house team and people on retreat for a week or a day (like me). Many of us were complete strangers to each other, our state of grace, our joys and our struggles an irrelevant unknown as we shared a hug or handshake of peace and muttered words of blessing, some polite, some intimate. We ate from the same loaf and drank the same wine. Together we remembered the same Jesus, whatever our relationship to him might be.
Rachel Held Evans writes about the many and varied ways that we celebrate communion/Eucharist/the Lord’s Supper/Mass/the breaking of bread, with bread, crackers, special wafers, using wine, grape juice or squash from ornate chalice, Styrofoam cup or miniature plastic cups. The atmosphere, she says, may be celebratory or somber, with organ music, guitars and drums or Gregorian chants.
Then she writes:
“But in every tradition I know, someone, at some point, says, “Remember.”
Remember how God became one of us? Remember how God ate with us and drank with us, laughed with us and cried with us? Remember how God suffered for us, and died for us, and gave his life for the life of the world? Remember? Remember?” From “Searching for Sunday”
I also remember other communions I have shared in…standing in a circle in a prison chapel (I was a visitor!) drinking from the same cup as violent criminals, thieves and sex offenders (When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”)…the climax to rowdy, fun-filled youth weekends…in a black township church in Zimbabwe where the local white Christians never went…with people I’ve been leading on retreat, where suddenly the work that God is doing in a life comes together in a moment of challenge and resolution as the body and blood of Jesus are shared in that oh so familiar but ever powerful meal.
What a graphic demonstration of what it means to be a part of the body of Christ…
“See his body, his blood – know that he has overcome
Every trial we will face.
None too lost to be saved, none too broken or ashamed;
All are welcome in this place.”
Matt Redman “Remembrance”
There’s something very special about this very physical act of remembering Jesus…with food and drink, taste and smell and being together as the body of Christ.
Barbara Brown Taylor writes:
“With all the conceptual truths in the universe at his disposal, [Jesus] did not give them something to think about together when he was gone. Instead, he gave them concrete things to do—specific ways of being together in their bodies—that would go on teaching them what they needed to know when he was no longer around to teach them himself . . . ‘Do this,’ he said—not believe this but do this—‘ in remembrance of me.’ ” From “An Altar in the World”
The early followers of Jesus took this command very seriously. They made this special meal a central part of every gathering together, large and small in homes and public buildings.
As I sat in the tiny chapel of the Northumbria Community, listening to the sounds of nature and the crackle of the wood-burner, and studying the faces of my fellow celebrants by the flickering light of myriad tea-lights and candles’ I was almost bursting with anticipation as I waited for communion to begin. I deeply regret having been absent from the ‘remember me meal’ for so long.