The Eucharist

Eucharist – to thank, to give thanks, to be thankful, to be grateful

If one were to play a word association game with the word “Eucharist,” the results would probably break down like this:

  • 50% – Blank stares and crickets chirping
  • 48% – “Communion”
  • 1.99% – “Last Supper”
  • 0.01% – “Feeding of the 5000”

That 0.01% is either a Biblical scholar or a preacher who fancies him/herself one.

Commentaries on the opening to John 6 are quick to point out that in John’s Gospel there is no Bread-and-Wine-Last-Supper moment.  There is no, “Do this in remembrance of me.”  There is no, “Take eat.”  There is no Eucharist.  Except that there is.  Sure, it doesn’t happen on “the night before he died for us,” but in John’s Gospel, there is still a time when Jesus took bread, gave thanks, and gave it away, and it happens in our lesson for Sunday, The Feeding of the 5000.

Jesus takes the five barely loaves from the young boy’s lunch box and makes them the Eucharist, the sign and symbol of thankfulness, the outward and visible sign of the indwelling power of God.  In the act of thanksgiving, Jesus turns a simple lunch into a feast for the masses.  In the Eucharist, Jesus makes fish and bread a symbol of God’s more than abundant grace, mercy, compassion, and love.

In our Eucharistic Feasts, we tend to mimic the sad scene of Maundy Thursday.  We approach the altar with due reverence, kneel, and give thanks for a life laid down, a body broken, blood spilled, for us.  What if we brought some John into our Eucharistic Event?  No, not the footwashing bits, but rather the joyful feeding of huge amounts of people bit.  What if we came expecting an overflowing banquet in the form of wafer and wine?  What if we really were to “come with joy to meet our Lord?”

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5 thoughts on “The Eucharist

  1. Interesting idea, Steve…now let’s take it a bit further…what if:

    * Each Sunday the Church celebrates the feeding of the 5000 by giving folks something more substantive than a wafer and wine – more like the Church of the Brethren lovefeast, http://www.brethren.org/about/practices.html#lovefeast, with traditional communion on Maundy Thursday?

    * We emphasize that a person come to the love feast with joy and thanksgiving, not solemnity and worry?

    * We consider moving the lovefeast to the beginning of public worship so that all are fed in the body so all have reason to give thanks and their hearts and minds are better able to receive the Word?

    For that matter, what if…

    * We remember baptism is for the remission of sin, but foot washing was unquestionably instituted by Jesus as an initiatory act turning servants into friends and marking them as His own? Sooo…

    * The Church consider making footwashing, a traditional practice of welcome and inclusion, the sacrament of entering the Church and baptism the sacrament of confirmation?

    Radical? Yes. Impossible? Smile….

    Thoughts?

    • Every Maundy Thursday, I wake up giving thanks that the early Church decided to go with bread and wine over foot washing as the central act of Christian worship. I stand by that and renounce everything you said after “For that matter,” based only on my disgust of feet.

      However, I’m all about your first half. At the National Cathedral some years ago, I was blessed to take part in a Agape Feast that was the Eucharist: bread, wine, hummus, grapes, and other delectables. It is a good model, especially in smaller, intimate contexts (the round tables setup in the nave of the Cathedral left something to be desired).

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