URC Daily Devotion 21 March 2024

St Mark 14: 22 – 25
While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’  Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it.  He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’

My mother was a third generation lay preacher, steeped in the traditions of independent church life.    A lifelong advocate of lay presidency, she was greatly sought after to lead communion. She would often turn up at worship with bread already cut into neat squares, with trimmed crusts, and wrapped in a white napkin.  She would never have described herself as a theologian but was widely read and kept up with Church business with great interest and commitment.  Joan Elphick was as far from high church practice as could be achieved. She would not have known nor much cared about the Anamnesis or Epiclesis and always referred to the sacrament as the “Lord’s supper” at the “Lord’s table” (capitals and the lack of them deliberate). 

But …and it’s a very big but… after the service was over, she would gather those squares of bread back into the napkin, tie it carefully so nothing could escape, and take it back home.  Once home, whatever the weather, she would take the napkin into the garden and cast the bread on the back lawn for the birds to eat. She would never have thrown it in the bin nor turned it into breadcrumbs for use in the kitchen – which she did with every other piece of leftover loaf we ever had.  

Why?  Whatever our answer is to that question is at the core of our knowledge of, and our thirst for, the sacrament of Holy Communion.  That answer is the basis of so many dreadful differences between, and within, denominations across the years.  That answer is integral to our understanding of God’s presence with us in the world, in all people, and in simple bread and wine.  That answer will be different for each one of us as God speaks to us through the basic things of life. Jesus took a loaf of bread and he took a cup, and they all drank from it.  Not for nothing is it called a Sacred Mystery. 

When at this table, I receive a blessing, 
the broken bread, the wine of life for me, 
then let me share the peace with you, my neighbour, 
and let the Spirit set our spirits free.

What faith I have, I bring to join this table, 
what hope I hold, in Christ is taught and true; 
with brothers, sisters, I will share the blessing, 
the feast, where God is making all things new.

Shirley Erena Murray. (1931-2020) 

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