It has often bothered me that the cup was before the bread or else that they took a meal between the bread and the cup. (But it gives me great comfort for the time, many years ago, when I presided over the Lord’s table and blessed the cup before the bread!)
Today, we argue over whether the bread must be leavened or unleavened, whether the cup must be wine or grape juice, and even how many cups we must have. And yet Luke seemed to make a point of explaining the communion in a way that left the issue confused.
Indeed, for those among us who insist that the law of authority denies that we may add fried chicken to the Lord’s Supper, it appears that Jesus added an entire meal! So what is the pattern, really?
The pattern, of course, is that we are to remember the body and blood of Jesus: honoring God regardless of the cost–which is a much harder pattern to replicate than simply fussing over on which aisle in the grocery store I must buy the fruit of the vine.
[prayer for the loaf]
During the Viet Nam war, some soldiers in prison in Communist North Viet Nam were prohibited from practicing their Christianity. The penalty was a severe beating with rifle butts, if not death. And yet some of these men carefully hoarded leftover apple juice and rice cakes until they had enough to celebrate communion on the rare occasion they found themselves together.
Now, rice was unheard of in First Century Palestine, and apples don’t even grow on a vine. But they followed the pattern–they worshipped God despite threats of beatings and death. They bore witness to the resilience of Christianity during brutal persecution. They kept the pattern–they remembered Jesus by living like Jesus, which is the most important thing.
No one had the luxury to argue and fight over the niceties of how to do it. The apple juice was sour. The rice cakes were old and stale. The prayers were simple and not eloquent, as we think of eloquence. And it was perhaps the finest, truest communion service since Jesus instituted the practice.
[prayer for the cup]