At my home church, 1st Sunday usually means that we will be serving communion. We eat the bread, which represents Jesus’s body that was broken. We drink the wine (or grape juice) which represents His blood which was shed for us. We are reminded to look inward at our heart attitude as we remember that Jesus suffered and died for us. It’s a beautiful tradition of remembrance that Jesus instituted, and is a regular opportunity to explain our faith to our children and others.
Sometimes traditions get too familiar. At least, for me they can. Sometimes, we get so focused on staging a particular aspect of a tradition, because of the way it has always been shared, that we unintentionally miss something that was meant to be remembered. When we discover that missing piece, suddenly a tradition moves from a place of “corporate ceremony” to “personally precious.” This year God did something for me that will forever change the way I view communion.
It’s not always when I have my nose in the Bible that God catches my attention. A lot of times it is when I least expect it. This spring I took my daughter to the DMV to get her driver’s permit. The waiting room was full of guys from Teen Challenge who were wearing Jesus shirts and preaching to the the young people about the dangers of drinking and driving. A man who had accumulated hefty fines for DUI’s was talking with the woman behind the desk, checkbook in hand, intent on paying off everything he owed. I sat in the hall, waiting with my eyes closed, praying for Ella while she took her written test.
Suddenly, I saw a picture of Jesus, kneeling in front of a disciple with a towel tied around his waist. Taking the foot he had just washed, he cradled it in the towel, and I heard him say, “I’m soakin’ up broken.”
To be honest, I don’t know how to explain to you how that moment changed me. I was overwhelmed by many thoughts and I didn’t get out of the building with dry eyes. It was the unexpected detail that caught me off guard and helped me to see God’s heart.
In John’s account of the last supper (Ch. 13), Jesus got up during the meal, took off his outer clothes, tied a towel around himself, and washed his disciples’ feet. Because they walked everywhere they went, wearing sandals on dusty roads, their feet were probably caked with dirt. I know that when our camp staff wear sandals around our campus all summer, their feet are gross. So when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, it probably made for really dirty water, and wet feet drip. Yet, Jesus dried their feet with a towel that was wrapped around his waist. No muddy puddles. He dried it all. God doesn’t withhold from us, though we are so often guilty of withholding from Him.
You and I are made clean by the Word when we believe Jesus is who He says He is and we become His servants. (John 15:3) But then we walk through this life, making mistakes, stepping through hard circumstances, and even getting kicked around by others who don’t honor the Lord. Spiritually speaking, we get rocks in our shoes, our feet get tired and sore, and we have messes. Big messes. We need a foot washing, so we go back to Jesus and we repent for what we’ve done wrong, we cry out our hurts, we forgive those who dishonor us, and Jesus takes it all. He cradles us in His arms, washes away the guilt, heals the hurts… soaks up the broken.
Watching those men in the DMV that day, I saw evidence of God. Lives had been changed. Hearts had been mended. Wrongs were being made right. Their lights weren’t being hidden under a basket. God was saying, “See what I’m doing.”
Jesus reminds us, just as He taught his disciples, that if He–the Master–serves us, then we are to serve one another. We are to tie a towel around our waist and wash feet, sometimes for real, and sometimes it’s the act of being His hands and feet in other ways. If we’re going to Build the Church (B.T.C.), we have to be willing to serve. Paul reminded the Corinthian church about the purpose of communion and how to honor Christ in it, in 1 Cor. 11, and then he went on in chapter 12 to teach them about spiritual gifts and the working of the Body of Christ. The picture he painted of a healthy Church was of every part giving, functioning, and sacrificing for the greater good.
The act of communion is a reminder to us and a testimony to the world… as Paul taught the Corinthian church, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Cor. 11:26)
Daily communion is the abiding that Jesus talked about in John 15. It is a day in and day out union with God. It is intimate, trusting, and sacrificing. It’s messy and real and transformational. I will never forget that it is how God takes Broken and makes Beautiful.
“Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.”