Friday, March 07, 2008

Here, O My Lord, I See... (A Communion Meditation)

There is a eucharistic hymn in the United Methodist Hymnal, and perhaps in others too, whose first line is: Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face..."
And in truth, our faith since Easter afternoon when Cleopas and his friend took the very first Walk to Emmaus is that just as they did, all subsequent pilgrims have "recognized him (Jesus) in the breaking of bread." Which is to say, in the breaking of bread, the sharing of the cup, we recognize his grace--that, "having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them--just as he loves us--to the end."
In the breaking of the bread we recognize his fealty, his loyalty, his faithfulness to the purposes of God, no matter the cost of that fidelity.
We recognize his ability to take ordinary things and make them extraordinary: whether bread and wine into his own body and blood; or men and women, into saints and servants, the flesh of his Word, themselves means of his grace and beacons of his Kingdom.
We recognize Jesus in the Holy Meal. That is the good news.
The bad news is that Here, in this Meal, we also recognize ourselves, or may. We see in the dark mirror of this broken bread and blood-red wine the truth of our own lives and condition. For "it was on the night he was betrayed" that Jesus instituted this meal.
"Yes, my own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me." These words, from the forty-ninth Psalm, have often been used as a lens to implicate Judas, but in truth the betrayal of Jesus is not limited to him, or even to Peter. In fact, all of his familiar friends, in whom he trusted, who ate of this bread, fell away. Despite pledges of faithfulness, loyalty and loving devotion, they all of them betrayed him.
Jesus' enemies can refuse him, or accuse him. They can accost him, or arrest him. They can lie, then try him. They can convict and condemn him. They can berate and beat him. They can scourge him and spit on him. They can crucify him, kill him, bury him deep in a hole...but they cannot betray him.
That special privilege is reserved for us. For only those who love him can turn on him. Only those who know him can say they never did. Only those who have pledged faith can recant that faith, only those who sit at the Table can get up and leave the Table, to go into the night, to do what they are going to do quickly or otherwise.
Only those who are close enough to kiss Jesus can give him the kiss of death.
And only those who are on the receiving side of Christ's extraordinary gift-making can render those extraordinary gifts ordinary. Trivial. Meaningless.
In the breaking of bread, here, O my Lord, I see Thee face-to-face.
And here, O my God, I see myself so as to hide my face.
According to Mark's account of Jesus' last night, after he had announced that "one of you," one of his familiar friends, one of his disciples would betray him, they each of them asked in turn, "Lord, am I the one?"
The answer to that question is...yes. We are all of us the ones.
Jesus feeds them anyway. Knowing all of them so well, knowing so well all of what was coming, he fed them anyway. Washed their feet. It was on freshly washed feet that Judas went to the High Priest. When Simon denied him--said, and of a truth, that he did not know the man--it was with sacrament on his tongue that he did it.
Jesus fed them.
Jesus feeds us.
He gives this meal even when we fail to discern the fullness of its meaning, even when we fail to receive.
He shows himself to us in the Meal, shows us who we are, too, knowing that we do not fully recognize either, but in hopes that when we see ourselves as we are we will see all the more clearly who he is.
And so may God grant us grace, as he did to Cleopas and his friend on that Easter afternoon long ago, that the scales may fall from our eyes and we may recognize him, recognize ourselves, see all he would grant us to see, in the breaking of this bread.


Anonymous said...

Your words are always a blessing to me - a true gift from God. I hope you continue sharing your thoughts.

Linda said...

Your words are always a blessing to me. I hope you continue sharing your thoughts in this manner.

Anita said...

I am so glad I found this! After I left the board meeting last month I tried to relay your words to Warren but fell so very short. This had an even more profound effect on me when you spoke it. Now that I've found you "blog spot" you can inspire me all the time! No, really, I'm serious :)
Love Ya,