When it was time, he sat down, all the apostles with him, and said, "You've no idea how much I have looked forward to eating this Passover meal with you before I enter my time of suffering. It's the last one I'll eat until we all eat it together in the kingdom of God."
Taking the cup, he blessed it, then said, "Take this and pass it among you. As for me, I'll not drink wine again until the kingdom of God arrives."
Taking bread, he blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, given for you. Eat it in my memory."
He did the same with the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant written in my blood, blood poured out for you.
"Do you realize that the hand of the one who is betraying me is at this moment on this table? It's true that the Son of Man is going down a path already marked out—no surprises there. But for the one who turns him in, turns traitor to the Son of Man, this is doomsday."
They immediately became suspicious of each other and began quizzing one another, wondering who might be about to do this.
Welcome to the ugly beauty of living in community.
I have read this passage hundreds, if not thousands of times over my life. It has never clicked with me the immediacy of the beauty being interrupted with the ugly. It’s not that I’ve not known it was there, it’s just that it never hit me that there was this immediacy to it.
Jesus just instituted what would become known as the eucharist or communion. The meal that Christians would eat regularly to symbolize our union with Christ and with one another. It is beautiful. Every time I celebrate communion with my community of faith I am moved by its simple beauty and the depth and weight of it.
But this morning I see it so clearly, there it is right alongside this beautiful moment, suspicion and arguing.
Community, even the ones that we hold most dear and ideal are imperfect. There is a sickness that runs through them and each of us. We all need healing, individually and corporately.
The beauty for me of the meal, of the eucharist, of communion is that it provides for us this weekly opportunity to declare that we will not let the spiritual sickness that resides in us win. It provides opportunity to deal with the issues. When we take time to reflect and wrestle with out readiness to receive the meal there is a chance to extend forgiveness and seek it.
What is most amazing about this story to me is not the moment in and of itself. It’s the fact that after this we have the continuing story that we call The Acts of the Apostles. This moment didn’t destroy them, they worked through it. They came out the other side to launch a global movement. As we read through Acts we find that the ugly of being in community together is never far away. The early church struggled with one another. They argued and had disagreements. There were tensions but they dealt with them and worked through them together.
What happens today is that we walk away from one church building to one down the street and never deal with the issues. There is little by way of entering in and redeeming the ugly. We just walk away.
Could you imagine if at that point in the story the disciples just walked away?
Could you imagine if they decided that they just couldn’t deal with “that person” and they were out?
I am so grateful they fought for redemption and relationship and the beauty of community.