What a gift to be overwhelmed by the person of Jesus Christ. The worries of the mundane details of my everyday sometimes keep me from living with a heightened awareness of him, but this week, God has gifted me with an ongoing sense of himself. Of course, this is passion week, so we Christians are on a high as we make frantic preparations for egg hunts and pictures with bunnies. Social media is flooded with scriptures and pictures of crosses testifying to the fact that a significant event 2,000 years ago has altered the course of history. Amazingly enough, there seems to be a slowing of political agendas in my feed, for which I am thankful. There is a brief pause in our hustle and striving as we remember the cross and the One crucified to it for our sakes.
I had a particularly fantastic moment this week, as I was serving communion at our church with my husband. I have served communion before, but this week I was almost in tears as 100+ people dipped their tiny bit of French bread into the cup of grape juice I was holding. I did my best to look at their faces (a concerted effort for an insecure introvert), but I was curious to see if the somber intensity of this moment would be reflected in their expressions. I was overwhelmed by the beautiful extravagance God displayed in allowing His Son’s blood to be shed, and I was hoping I was not the only one struck by the magnitude of it.
His blood was shed, to take away our sins and reconcile us to God, and also to reconcile us to each other. These were my brothers and sisters, hundreds of them, filling six separate lines, waiting to take communion. Many of them smiled with joy and looked me in the eye as though saying, “Yes, I am overwhelmed by His love, too”. Some kept their heads down and passed through as quickly as possible (solidarity my fellow introverts).
But as I repeated the words to each one “Christ’s blood shed for you”, I was struck at the expanse of God’s love for us. His blood was shed for you. And me. And the husband breaking bread for his wife as she juggled their infant daughter. And the single mom, pulling her toddler behind her. And the man with the grease on his mechanic’s uniform and under his fingernails. And the well-dressed, clean shaven businessman. And the woman on crutches, chuckling to herself as she clumsily balanced on one foot while dunking her piece of bread. And the junior high girl who rushed awkwardly away before I could get all the words out. His blood was shed for all of us. And it is because of this, that we commune. We come together and we break bread and we worship together. We may have nothing else in common but this one thing -- we are broken people in desperate need of being saved from our sins and ourselves.
I have to give a resounding “Yes, please!” when I read the words penned by Shauna Niequest in her book “Bread and Wine”. She states, “I want all of the holiness of the Eucharist to spill out beyond church walls, out of the hands of priests and into the regular streets and sidewalks, into the hands of regular, grubby people like you and me, onto our tables, in our kitchens and dining rooms and backyards.”
When one realizes the fullness of the love of Christ, it cannot be contained. It will spill over into the everyday of our lives. Remembrance of the greatest act of love cannot be confined to formal gatherings, but will find a space in our day to day. As we share our food, wine, and homes with our husbands, children, neighbors and friends, the unifying work of Jesus is being remembered. As we meet with friends at local spots for coffee and dessert to celebrate each others birthdays and grieve for each others losses, the power of the cross is in our midst, calling us to come together and share in one another’s burdens. As we share the praises of what God is doing, and ask prayer for the struggles we are facing with members of our House Church, the Holy Spirit is doing a sanctifying work in and through us to ready the bride for her Bridegroom. It is sacred. Not just in the church buildings, but also in the public school buildings as teachers and students share lunch, and the office buildings as co-workers share coffee and discuss business, and in homes where mothers wipe mashed peas off chubby, baby cheeks. The remembering of Christ’s work is sacred in all of these places.
By God’s grace, my daughters have carried with them a reverence this week that is unusual. I have been pleasantly surprised that the typical clamoring for candy, Easter eggs and baskets has been absent this year. I don’t know how that happened but I’m rejoicing in it!
My six-year-old asked for a “private conversation” last night, which is code for “I want some undivided attention from you”. I asked her what she wanted to talk about and she said, “Jesus dying on the cross.” Never mind that it was well past her bedtime. We talked. She asked why he would do that. I explained it was because he loved her so much and wants her to love him back and be with him forever. She dipped her head and blushed with joy. She heard the truth and had the faith to believe it was true for her. Again my eyes stung with tears, for reflected in my daughter’s face, I saw the beauty of the bride of Christ as she recognizes the love her Groom has for her.
Who, but God, could fill us with this kind of unity and peace? There is no government or organization that has managed to bring peace to the human heart in this way. Peter, a disciple of Jesus, when asked by Jesus if he was going to turn back from following him replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” There is nothing else that gives us hope like the eternal words of the gospel. This is what the disciples of Jesus came to realize, and this is what united them after Jesus ascended and gave them courage to carry the mission of Jesus into the world.
This is the joy I saw in the faces of my brothers and sisters as we took communion together. This is the light I saw in the eyes of my little girl as she realized how deeply loved she is by God. This is the underlying current of conversations with friends around our dinner table. It is the hope of eternal life. A remembering of Christ’s broken body and shed blood, and a foreshadowing of the great Wedding Feast to which we have been invited. We are a group of people who realize that there is nowhere else we can go to find this hope. And together we are living out the mission to invite others into relationship with the Giver of this hope. That is astounding to me! And I hope it is to you, also.
My prayer for you today is that you will find yourself overwhelmed to the point of blushing with joy at the extravagance of God’s love for you. I pray you will have a chance this week to share in the work that God is doing in the lives of your brothers and sisters and those who have yet to become brothers and sisters. I pray that as you share a meal with loved ones after Sunday services, you will be aware of the sacred spilling of fellowship into the everyday. I pray that as you celebrate Jesus’ resurrection this Sunday, you will rejoice in the salvation that has been gifted to you from the God who loves you so much, he would rather die in your place than be separated from you.
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Revelation 21:3-5 ESV
For further study and encouragement:
Acts 2:46; John 19-20