The words are familiar to me, to many of us who believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
This is my body, broken for you.
This is my blood, poured out for you.
When I am most aware, I whisper those aching words with reverence, the weight of them pressed against the inside of my cheek and held there. I take the bread solemnly, the silence echoing louder than betrayal.
The words of Jesus at the Last Supper often hold heavy for the Church, whether Communion is a weekly ritual or reserved for the holiest of occasions. The Church sits quietly, stilled, as the bread is raised and broken, the wine poured and blessed.
We hear those words again, some of the very last words of Jesus, Son of Man, and we hold our breaths in remembrance of Him.
During this ritual, we feel the holiness. Somehow, a few words, a couple of poetic sentences that surely made little sense to the men who heard them first, spoken with a heavy, hopeful heart centuries ago still manage to capture us, steady our attention.
If we close our eyes and open our hearts, if we really focus, tilting an ear to Heaven, we can hear these words of Jesus. We can hear his hands breaking the loaf into pieces, hear the sound of wine splashing into an empty cup. We might even hear the desperation in Jesus’ voice.
His time is near. It must be done. He watches as bread and wine — his body and blood — are given out to the twelve he has chosen. Men who bicker, men who falter, men who just don’t get it, not yet.
I can picture Jesus watching, looking around the table at his closest friends. His last supper, his final feast with his most devoted followers. Unassuming men he chose, not because of power or influence, but because of their simple faith. He called; they came.
And his body and blood, broken and poured out, entrusted to these twelve men and for the whole world.
What an image, just as powerful yet more subtle than the image of the cross. Around this table, with bread crumbs in his palm, a wrenching reminder of what is in store, Jesus could still turn back. No doubt this last supper sounds like bones breaking, like blood and water pouring out. The bread tastes dry in his mouth, the wine bitter enough to bring tears. And only Jesus knows it, feels it, tastes it, gets it.
Now, today, on this side of the Crucifixion and impossible Resurrection, we get it, at least a little. As his Church that understands the meaning of that last supper, as his people who celebrate and remember Jesus’ words, we break the bread and we pour the wine and we invite those whose reverence still settles them in their pews and draws them to the altar. To come, to dip the bread in the wine, to partake in the holy feast, the New Covenant. To know and trust and remember his broken body, his blood poured out.
It is a ritual well-known and cherished by the Church, a pointed understanding of what Jesus was truly offering when he offered his disciples the broken bread and shared cup.
The body of Christ, broken for you. The blood of Christ, poured out for you. For me. For the whole world still unaware, still wondering if there’s more.
What a beautiful, tragic night that was in our faith history.
And what a call for us the Church to follow Jesus, to share in his brokenness, to be the new body of Christ so willing to pour out and down and into the cracks of this hurting world.
We are the Church. And this is our cup.