Gratitude is from the same root word as “grace,” which signifies the free and boundless mercy of God. It was Maundy Thursday. The congregation was having the traditional communion service. This time the pastor suggested that as we passed the bread and cup we whisper, “The body of Christ, broken for you.” “The blood of Christ, shed for you.” As the service progressed, I concentrated on remembering the pastor’s words, and thought it would be nice to do this more often. Between me and the aisle was an old woman, not nearly so concerned with the pastor’s exact words, but thoroughly understanding their meaning. As she served me she said softly, “Take it. It’s for sinners.”
Paul said to the young Timothy, “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.”(I Tim. 1:15) Many of us feel that we cannot take the Lord’s Supper because we are not worthy. We have sinned, disobey God. But this meal is precisely for sinners. Twelve of those who gathered around that table were very flawed.
We take part in this meal not because we are perfect but because we are not perfect. The purpose of the meal was not for those who were well, but for the sick. The very ones that needed Jesus’ death the most. To examine ourselves simply means to know that we are sinners and need the forgiveness of Jesus.
It has been said that when we Disciples gather for worship, we always have the Lord’s Supper. When we look at all the passages in the New Testament that record a worship or gathering of the first century Church, they always “broke bread.” Luke, the disciple, writes the Book of Acts around 61 A.D. In the writing he gives us a clear insight into the worship service. On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.
This passage in acts is one of my favorites because it tells us how easy the laity of today have it. Paul spoke to the people and kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!”
Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. This bread is life. Jesus in fact said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.