This Wednesday we begin the season of Lent. Some of us long for Ash Wednesday all year.
Even though the discipline of imitating Christ’s 40-day fast is an old one, each year it is new, as well. Because each year we are called out into the wilderness as a year-different person than we were the previous year: a year wiser or a year weaker, a year more mature or a year more undone. As a new person who is the “I am” we are right now, we are called out to meet the “I am” who is God. We go in search of our true selves as we meet the one who makes us new and whole in a whole new way.
This year at Broad and Washington we are even more pointedly gathering around the communion table to share the Lord’s death so we can share in his resurrection. It will be just as mysterious as Paul described it to the Philippians as the letter to them: “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).
When Jesus, the great “I am,” welcomes us to the table, some of us will not want to go. This post is for you.
The whole meal is about being broken by sin — being confronted with what we carry and being offered forgiveness, cleansing and freedom. At the table we receive the body of Jesus taking on our sin and death. Some of us will not want to receive it. The last thing some of us want to do is bring Jesus into our mess. We don’t want to sully Jesus with the defilement that poisons and taunts and drains the life out of us! As a result, some of us rarely join Him at the table — maybe never have. Maybe when the body and blood were passed to us and we were too embarrassed to refuse it, we took it feeling like imposters.
You will not defile the body of Christ with your defilement – the sins you have committed and those committed against you, your torments or your trials. Where his wounds touch your wounds you will be made clean again. No one will push you to do it, but it will help to take your memories and face them at the table, to let your pain be touched, not protected, to die and rise again and again until you get there.
Lent might be a good time for the traumatized and despondent to confess the sin of mistrust and tell the stories of their past sin and present entrapments. Visit the therapist, tell the trusted friend, write it in the prayer journal, or tell the cell. Take it with you to the table. As your miserable, sordid stories bleed out of you, be wrapped in an immensity of cleansing, sheltering, ministering, healing love. Look toward your resurrection as you eat and drink communion with Jesus at the table and wherever His people share his love.
God, in Jesus, is showing great love. I hope you already knew that. That love is vividly presented to be known and touched when we share the body and blood of Christ in the communion meal. It is not magic or a miracle we can dial up, but when we take into our bodies from the plate and the cup, we invite the presence of the Light and Life of all people right in to our very guts. No evil can co-exist with the presence of the living Christ.
If you eat the bread and drink from the cup, discerning the person of Christ, it will be life to you. When you receive the elements of “I am” let the whisper of your heart be “I am” as well. The life in Christ is catching. It makes us. When it touches us, it spreads within us. It will purge all rottenness and decay. It will touch the sore places of our spirits. It will turn us toward life. Is this what you want? Is this what you ask of Jesus?
Then say it with Psalm 51: “Make me hear joy and gladness so that even my broken places join the song. Keep me in your presence when the sin in me and on me drags me away. Restore in me the joy of being saved. May your freedom to love be met by my freedom to be loved.
Can you say it? “This is my sacrifice to you of a troubled spirit, Lord. I trust that you will not despise my hopeful but helpless heart.”
Jesus will lift away the sludge that has gradually covered over the lamp of Christ in our souls. The “I am” who began with Jesus will be restored by the great “I am.”
Pray it: “Dear Jesus, my brother, my leader, my friend, I have nothing to give you but my troubled spirit. I love you as I can. I have no where better to go than to you. I put my trust in you. Receive the offering of this broken heart. Unbreak me.”