In church this morning we took the Eucharist. As I sat there searching for the presence of Christ in a half burnt cracker, I saw the New England Patriots insignia in the cracker. Perhaps this Texan had been in New England too long? This observation was after the ridiculous media preoccupation with someone’s toast looking like Michael Jackson. Even the world-class BBC news carried the story for two days. If you want to bid on the toast, I think it might be for sale on EBay.
If you are anything like me, the Eucharist can be a difficult sacrament to practice. As time-starved, technology-saturated people, stillness and quietude have a way of leaving us in a state of mental distraction. All kinds of crazy images, thoughts and memories can sprint through our minds when we are sitting still in church. We are all too easily distracted when digesting the body of Christ.
What should we see when we look at the cracker, at the bread?
When John records Jesus’ words about eating his flesh and drinking his blood, it is in the context of complaining. The Jews were complaining about Jesus’ audacious claims to be the Messiah. Of course, human complaining, especially Jewish complaints, weren’t really new. After the exodus rescue, the Israelites complained (same word in John) to YHWH in dissatisfaction over their diet (John 6:41,43; cf. Exod. 16:7-8). YHWH responded to their complaints with the judgment-provision of tasteless manna.
Complaining is not just unpleasant; it is a form of unbelief. It is a rejection of God’s provision and providence in life, whether bitter or banal, health or no health, life or death.
Similar to the manna, the Eucharist conveys judgment and salvation to its recipients. Those that feast on YHWH’s Son are reminded that Christ bears our judgment for unbelief and delivers our salvation for faith. When we contemplate the crusty cracker, we can see more than the Pats and Michael Jackson, we should see judgment and salvation, rejection and acceptance, failure and forgiveness because of Jesus and YHWH.
Yes, there’s more to our toast than Michael and manna. When Paul talks about taking the Lord’s Supper, he writes: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor 11.26). Interestingly, in addition to the implications of remembering the past when we bite into the bread, there are also future dimensions to the Eucharist. We take the bread and wine (juice) not only in remembrance of the body and blood of Christ given for us, but also in hopeful anticipation of his returning, glorified body and blood. We digest the Eucharist until he comes.
The Christian life, although rendered possible by the past—the substitutionary death of King Jesus—isn’t meant to be lived in nostalgia. We don’t just “accept Jesus into our hearts” and continue life by looking into the rear-view mirror. There is infinitely more to this relationship with the Lord of Life—a hope of future restoration and grand reunion with Him. In fact, we live differently—purely—precisely because when we see Him we will be like Him: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we will be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” It is this future hope that we can contemplate in the elements. Jesus past and Jesus future, inextricably bound up with our forgiven past and future glory.
If we want eternity with Him, we are to long for his return. Some days that is really hard and “far off,” but that’s what things like the Eucharist are for—a unique opportunity to receive more from God in our journey with and toward Jesus. It is an opportunity to digest the richest of realities, that God is for us, not against us; that he has forgiven us, not rejected us; that future glory and grace are ours, now, in Jesus.
Like the Patriots, we can’t be effective if we just sit around reliving Super Bowl glory. In order make progress in the faith we should also look forward, anticipating future glory. We are meant to look back to the cross for the foundation for our faith, as well as forward for the future of our faith, an eternal glorified state of participating in the life of the King and the kingdom.
What do you see when you look at the bread, at the cracker? Bored and distracted? Try looking backwards and forwards for Jesus, for past forgiveness and future glory.
(c) Jonathan Dodson – Creation Project