Monday, April 13, 2015

Broken Bread

Note: I wrote the following for a collaborative Lent devotional with Shalom Mennonite and Community Mennonite of Harrisonburg, VA. Though Lent and Holy Week are over for this year, I wanted to share this short reflection from Maundy Thursday here anyway.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

In our little church in Chapel Hill we celebrate communion seven times a year, so it’s not that often that I get to help serve bread and cup. Having washed my hands thoroughly in preparation for serving, I delight in taking hold of the crisp crust of the fresh loaf, getting flour on the clean skin of my bare hands, and tearing it down the middle as someone else reads, “This is my body that is for you.” It makes a mess, crumbs on the table and the floor. It’s tactile. I hold the bread up, half in each hand, for all to see. It feels awkward, this moment of quiet reverence in our blessedly informal lives together. But I love that awkwardness, as I love what follows, when the servers walk around the circle, breaking off chunks of bread and pressing them into open hands.

Someone once told me that people are never so beautiful as they are when they approach the communion table, and I look for that beauty now in my friend’s faces. I try to make eye contact as I say, “The body of Christ, broken for you.” For you, you, you -- and for me, for us. As the text says, we proclaim Christ’s death until he comes, but this practice points to more than that. In our communion together we proclaim that our faith is an embodied faith. Christ’s body is for us, we are for Christ, and in belonging to Christ we belong to one another. Body and soul, we are each one for the other. During Lent -- a season of fasts, to be followed by feasting -- it seems appropriate to ask, then, how we can better care for the bodies that make up the body of Christ. Physically and spiritually, we are hungry and in need. Those crumbs that scatter when I break the bread are as much a part of the body as the larger chunks of bread in my hand -- all parts broken off from the whole. When one is ill, isolated, in mental or physical pain, brokenness is perhaps all too easy to understand. What is harder is belonging, naming and caring for our individual crumbled lives as a way of re-membering, of holding ourselves together as one, as Christ did on the night he was betrayed.