Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” –Luke 22
If you’ve heard this story as many times as I have, the events of the evening are memorized in our brains. There was a foot washing, then there was a meal, then there was communion—the body and the blood.
A few weeks ago at church, as the Eucharist was being prepared, I heard the teacher say, “And after they ate, he took the cup…” This is the version we find in Luke, and I’d never caught that it was different before. But it is.
First the bread, then an entire meal, then the cup.
And I thought what an awkward meal that would have been.
Imagine an extended meal right after Jesus tells you to eat some bread because it’s actually his body. Imagine everyone reeling, trying to understand. Imagine the awkward side glances, someone trying to bring it back up again in casual conversation.
“So, you mentioned that bread before…” to which Jesus responds by popping another olive in his mouth. It’s so hard to be in the tension. It’s so hard to sit with the in-between faith.
Maybe the disciples lived differently. Maybe they walked in a mystic way, understanding that everything is infused with life and with spirit. So maybe what Jesus said about the bread made sense and gave them some sort of eternal-looking hope.
Still, that would have been a long meal. A mysterious meal, one that was hard to grasp.
But that’s exactly where we sit repeatedly in our faith stories.
The tension that the church must willingly sit in is knowing that we are not better than the rest of the world. The tension is that everyone belongs at that table with Jesus, and everyone deserves a meal.
The tension is the actual meal, sitting in the presence of Jesus, knowing that we-all of us-are capable of good and evil.
All of us are John and Judas, Peter and Pilate.
After the disciples ate at the table a while, Jesus grabbed some more wine and shared it with his friends, telling them the next odd and terrifying thing. “This is my blood, it’s covenant.”
Again, with the heart of a mystic, he called them to metaphor and to reality at the same time. He called them to see that the blood makes things new, that his own journey, his own story, was going to create something new in the very foundations of this life.
And that’s still the life we continue living in today, friends.
Can you feel it?
We live in the meal. That whole time in between the bread and the wine, that whole time of relaxing at the table wondering what’s next for the life of Jesus, for the life of his friends, and Jesus sitting at the table with a friend he knew would betray him.
The tension of this life is that we sit with our friends. We watch as one betrays us, manipulates, hurts us, or we betray, manipulate or hurt them. We sit and look around at the people who keep us tethered to what is good, to what we need, to our true stories.
But all the while, we’re waiting on a new covenant.
We’re waiting for something we don’t understand yet.
We’re waiting for a world to call us to itself, for God to call us to whatever it is God finds good.
But first, the bread. But first, the long, awkward, pass-the-mashed-potatoes kind of meal in which everything is chaos and quiet all at once.
This is life. This is the tension of the meal.
May we simply understand that we are to hold on. We are to keep eating and embracing one another right now, today, in this tension. We have eaten the bread, claimed that we belong to the body of Jesus. Now we wait for the blood to fully show us the way, for our hearts to be made new.
Let’s eat, friends.