I just got home from our congregation’s Maundy Thursday service of communion. We came forward, knelt down, and partook of the bread and the cup–the body broken, the blood poured out for us. The altar has now been stripped and the cross covered with black cloth.
Our church’s practice is to celebrate communion on the first Sunday of the month. This Easter, then, will be a Communion Sunday for us.
As we do not have communion every Sunday, the idea of two Eucharists in such close proximity–one on the betrayal-and-death side of the story, the other on the resurrection side–has been fascinating to me.
Below is an adaptation of a short message I wrote to our congregation last night.
I’m writing to invite you again to our Maundy Thursday communion service of worship tomorrow night at the church.
And Sunday is Easter Day, Resurrection Sunday, the most glorious day of the calendar year.
As it turns out, because April 5 is the first Sunday of the month, it is also a Communion Sunday for us.
This offers as a unique lens through which to experience this last half of Holy Week and Easter. We might even think of it as A Tale of Two Eucharists.
The First Eucharist
On Thursday Jesus broke bread and gave thanks (this latter verb is the underlying meaning of the Greek-based Eucharist). But even as he was filled with gratitude for his Father’s love, surrounded by the ones who loved him most, he knew there was a betrayer at the table.
In a more cosmic sense, the next day—Good Friday—he would be betrayed by all of the ones he came to save. Not I!, we protest with the disciples at the table. But we, too, “were there when they crucified our Lord.” We have been complicit.
The Second Eucharist
Yet Jesus forgives us of that complicity. Every other Eucharist that has taken place since that first Thursday Eucharist has been on the other side of Resurrection. Our moral failings, stubborn hearts, and forgetfulness in doing good have now all been put to death. We rise to new life with Christ, given a second (and a third, and a fourth…) chance to embody Jesus to a world that is as broken today as it was when our Savior was crucified.
Easter reminds us that the crucifixion was not the closing chapter the disciples thought it was. Rather, it was a preface (a “cold open,” as TV shows call it) to the real story of why Jesus came—to defeat sin and suffering and death through his resurrection, and to invite us into the resurrected life with him.
Just as we participate with Jesus in his death and suffering–Maundy Thursday’s bread of betrayal–we also participate with him in his glorious victory over darkness–Easter morning’s bread of new life.