“This is my body given for you… This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:19-20). The breaking of bread and pouring of wine, to commemorate the new covenant made between the Divine and Man (Mark 14:12-26). Also called the Lord’s Supper or the Holy Communion, depending on your denominational ilk, this ancient and sacred meal sits at the very heart of the gospel message that we get to engage. I was recently reminded of the oddly ordinary origins of Eucharist, by dear friends gracious enough to share their home, table, and a cup of coffee with me and my wife.
You see, I don’t particularly believe that the meal requires a loaf of bread or an oyster cracker to be proper. Welch’s often substitutes wine, but what even says the drink must be red? Our hosts shared that they strive to share coffee together on the couch every evening together as work days end, school days close, and kids play and prepare for bed. This is the moment that they intentionally carve for themselves as a couple, creating an open space for conversation, to share worries, to share each other’s joys. In their words, this is their “daily communion”. If coffee can serve as a reminder that we live into a larger faith like this, then by all means, do not make it about the wine or the wafer. A common, ordinary act can serve to remind us of universal beauties.
Eucharist is about the body broken and the blood poured out. Christ, upon the institution of this sacrament, was packing so many realities of the kingdom of Heaven into this gesture. Using a bit of bread leftover from the religious feast of Passover, and a cup with a bit of wine left, he chose these ordinary elements to infuse with radical, cosmos-altering life. Providing us a pattern, in which we can live such radical love that it may feel like our own bodies are broken and our blood is running dry. But with a hope beyond, seeing that there is a three day period between Good Friday and Easter Sunday in which the body is rebuilt and the blood poured back in. That is the rhythm we remind ourselves of in this meal. This is the rhythm that we enter into every morning. There’s a time for the broken, a time for the whole; a time for the drained, a time for the full. All this, we can learn and be reminded of every time we make a piece of toast with our eggs, pour a cup of coffee to share with your husband, or share your home table with a friend.
It’s an ordinary thing to eat a meal, but now it gets to be sacred. You must eat to survive, but with a Eucharistic attitude, Communion is no longer eating. In this new covenant, baptism is no longer getting wet. Jesus turns the old world upside down in the privacy of this upper room, instituting a practice for millennia to come as all come to this sacred table. He forsakes the temples, laughs at the powerful, kisses sinners and heals the unclean; an upside down kind of kingdom makes ordinary bread and wine holy, with no need for wealth and riches, for the riches are found in joy, love, and connection. Again, we enter into a holy rhythm, imbibing the symbolic elements of the Christ, activated and motivated then to break our body for those who also need food for the stomach and for the soul. We receive so that we may give. If Christ’s work on the cross finally took sin, violence, and death out of circulation, then our sharing in this holy meal ought to bring an abundance of grace, joy, and love in to circulation.
Finally, communion is not taken alone. Consider that the word is comprised of two words, common and union; neither speak of isolation or faith on a metaphorical island. We share this meal among family, friends, church community, because we knit ourselves together in this way. By taking the symbolic holy body of Christ within us, we affirm the holy church, the catholic (universal) vision of the church. We, as the enduring, spiritual body, tie ourselves to those who see a more beautiful way to live and love in this world by following the Christ way. We anchor ourselves to a church that spreads far and wide over the globe and also spans millennia into the past and perhaps the future. This all, and more, is what we enter into when we share this common meal. And a cup of coffee at a friend’s house could serve as a perfect reminder of such a holy thing.