Thursday. The night Jesus was betrayed. The night he entered into the age old feast of the Passover and turned the remembrance of one night, generations ago, and breathed new meaning into it. The night of the new covenant. The night when all creation held it’s breath to see what would unfold. The night of a cup waiting to be drunk. The night of agony. A man sweating blood. The night of explanation to his friends, of helping them see what good could come after such darkness. A night of prayer and sleeping. A night of betrayal, denial and pain. A night to remember.
The first communion. The first call to remember and proclaim. The bedrock of our lives. The one story we are all drawn into and the one man who unites us together in recognition of our brokenness and need. The bread and wine. Eternal symbols of the reality of our lives. Our lives revolve around this story. The constant reminder that this is what we need more than anything. The cross calls us in, to lay down our lives, to admit that we cannot make it home on our own, to admit that there is more than the world in front of our eyes, and to admit that we are wrong. We need this defining moment in history. We need to stop on this dark night. To feel the agony, to hear the desperate cries of a man who knows the horror that awaits him and to hear his obedience, his counting of the joy to come and to know that in the darkness real meaning, hope and light would be born.
The old hymns are the best expressions of all that happened on that first Thursday night.
“I cannot tell how silently he suffered
As with his peace he graced this place of tears
Or how his heart upon the cross was broken
The crown of pain to three and thirty years
But this I know, He heals the broken-hearted
And stays our sin and calms our lurking fear
And lifts the burden from the heavy laden
For yet the Saviour, Saviour of the world is here.”
“And when I think, that God his Son not sparing,
Sent him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.”
“Guilty vile and helpless we, spotless lamb of God was he
Full atonement, can it be?
Halleujah, what a Saviour!”
The cross says everything. Tonight I went to church and was reminded that this is all I need. The bread and the wine. The body of Jesus broken for me and for you. The deep symbolism that reminds me that I have a way back to God. That I stand forgiven and accepted. That nothing else will work, none of my good deeds, none of my worst moments can change anything at the Lord’s table. I simply come, empty, broken, full of sin. It is because of these things that I can come. All I do is hold out my hands and receive. It is all I can ever do. And the wondrous thing is that it is enough. His love compels us to come, to throw away our own efforts at righteousness and accept that 2000 years ago one man changed the world forever, that he bore our sin, that he took on our death, that he bore the wrath that should have been ours. We proclaim this until he comes.
“We do not presume
to come to this your table, merciful Lord,
trusting in our own righteousness,
but in your manifold and great mercies.
We are not worthy
so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table.
But you are the same Lord
whose nature is always to have mercy.
Grant us therefore, gracious Lord,
so to eat the flesh of your dear Son Jesus Christ
and to drink his blood,
that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body
and our souls washed through his most precious blood,
and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us.