Take, Thank, Break, Give
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
(You can listen to this sermon by clicking here.)
On the night before the Lord Jesus died for us, he took a loaf of bread. He gave thanks to God the Father, broke the loaf, and gave it to his friends. “Take, eat;” he said, “this is my body which is given for you.” Though we commemorate that act every Sunday, it is on this night, Maundy Thursday, that we play out the drama of that Last Supper.
Over the years, I have come to need this meal. The holy communion, eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, whatever you want to call it, it is my most important meal of the week. But even more than that, the simple act of receiving communion is the most important thing I do all week. I sincerely believe that this meal strengthens me. Through it, the Holy Spirit enlivens and empowers me to carry on my work in God’s Kingdom. This food and this drink comforts me in times of trouble, stirs me in times of complacency; but most of all, this meal bends my heart and my mind toward God.
There is a subtle danger here. There is a danger of giving too much weight to this holy meal. When we focus on the taking, thanking, breaking, and giving of this meal we can develop spiritual tunnel vision. We peer at this holy meal, only desiring its blessings. There is a danger of elevating this service to the point of idolatry, to where showing up, eating, and drinking are the be all and end all of Christian faith.
But the taking, thanking, breaking, and giving is not just about this meal. It’s not just about Jesus’ final dinner with his band of followers. The taking, thanking, breaking, and giving is about us. These four verbs are the rubrics of how to live a Christian life. First and foremost, God takes us. Some of us were taken by God at an early age, as we were raised on the faith of the Church. Others were taken by God later, as they grew into a relationship. God takes us in all sorts of wonderful ways: a beautiful worship service, a silent moment, a painting, a sermon, kindness from a stranger. Whether we expected it or not, God takes us and claims us as his own.
On the night he was handed over to suffering and death, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread.
And for that, we cannot help but give thanks. We thank God for the wonderful mysteries of this faith. We thank God for the bountiful blessings, the abundant life that is only found in the name of Christ. We are taken by God, and so we give thanks.
On the night he was handed over to suffering and death, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread and gave thanks to God the Father.
And then comes the hard part. God breaks us. God breaks our sin, God breaks the hardness of our hearts, God breaks our egotism and pride. We are no longer what we used to be – we are broken by God just as the bread of holy communion must be broken, and broken, and broken again so that there will be enough for everybody to eat.
On the night he was handed over to suffering and death, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks to God the Father, he broke the bread.
We are a taken, thankful, broken people. And there is only one last thing to do. We must give. We give. We give love profusely. We give our talents without regard. We empty our pockets and clear our calendars so that we can give all, all, to the mission of God’s Kingdom. We give ourselves. There is no holding back. Tonight, after we have all shared in this feast of bread and wine, there will be nothing left on the altar. All the bread, all the wine will be given, consumed. There will be nothing left. All will be given.
On the night he was handed over to suffering and death, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks to God the Father, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples.
This fateful night, the night on which the Lord Jesus was handed over to suffering and death, is not just another Thursday. This is the night that we take as the example of how to live as Christians.
That’s the real purpose of this evening. It’s to remind us that you, and I, become the bread for God’s altar. We do not take the Holy Eucharist. The thankful Church becomes the Holy Eucharist as God takes, breaks, and gives us. We are bread given for the life of the world. We become the bread of heaven, and the body of Christ.