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Five Milliliters of Grace
By David B. Smith

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iBelieve: Symbols of Mercy | PDF Version | Study Guide: The Lord's Supper

The Bible is big on remembering! The Fourth Commandment begins with the word “remember” and suggests that a weekly Sabbath is an effective antidote to forgetting our spiritual roots. The people of Israel were encouraged to remember and rehearse the great deeds of the Lord, reciting them to their children. New Testament writers warn Christians to remember the many Bible stories — the cheerful and the sordid — in order to benefit from the invaluable lessons God intends.

And then we have a tiny wafer and Communion cup with just a few milliliters of grape juice . . . and we’re told to please remember something. Which happens to be that Jesus is an incredible Friend and Savior who literally gave His life so that we could live, and that we’re going to live forever in paradise due to His generosity, and things are really, really quite wonderful all and only because of Him.

The very first Lord’s Supper began in blushing, almost breathtaking fashion. It had been a dusty walk to the Passover feast. There were unspoken “elephants in upper rooms” even back then, and someone needed to perform the menial task of washing everyone’s feet. Not one of the twelve disciples wanted to. Until Jesus, their Master — King of kings — took off His robe, picked up a towel, and descended into greatness.

That’s the title of a good Bill Hybels book suggesting that the Christian church needs to be marked by service, putting self aside, by unity and a gritty, steadfast commitment to a common purpose: the body of Christ. That quiet, unstated deed by Jesus, washing the feet of underlings, has reverberated down through the ages, summed up eloquently in His own confession: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

In the church I attend,* members actually follow Christ’s example and prepare for the Communion meal by washing each other’s feet. It’s a moving, graciously humbling time of intimate fellowship; it reminds us not just that we will always need the cleansing blood of Jesus, but that we also depend on one another. There’s no hierarchy of elite status within the body of believers; a clerical giant or world leader might kneel down with a towel and symbolically wash the feet of an unwed teen mom.

At a Christian camp event, I once said to my junior high kids: “We’re about to celebrate communion, which makes us all the same. For these next few minutes, we’re not teachers and students — but just grateful sinners who love Jesus. So during this Lord’s Supper, hey, you can all call me David.” Well, they liked that! But I went on to remind them how huge it was that Jesus loved each of them enough to get nailed to a tree and bleed out His life as a gift binding us all together.” When I was done, one of the girls came up and said, “Wow, Mr. Smith — er, I mean, David — that stuff you said almost made me cry.”

Communion is an ordinance open to all believers; “Professor Smith” titles and denominational lines evaporate when we come to the Lord’s table. We are most truly a global family at this moment: one Body partaking of one Bread: Jesus Himself. And the tactile flow of that cool water and the quiet rubbing with a small white towel are poignant tools of remembering  — of learning and relearning the five words in Paul’s Magna Carta for the Church: serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13).
Then we come to the Lord’s Supper itself, a universal ordinance so rich in symbolism as we heed Jesus’ plea: Do this in remembrance of Me. We are reminded that Jesus is our sustenance, our meat and our drink. We could not survive without Him! His words and teachings are the very bread of our lives; we need to take His kingdom principles into our hearts and minds and souls, meditating on the gospel story not just as we take the bread, but all throughout our lives.

It’s interesting that such tiny emblems are actually the tallest towers of a re-prioritized life. We are redeemed men and women! Our death sentence has been canceled! What’s more, we are honoring a victorious and returning King; we’re instructed in 1 Corinthians 11:26 to celebrate this Supper proclaiming the Lord’s death UNTIL HE COMES. If we come to the church that day with a grudge or petty annoyance or unconfessed sin — but then stack those trinket-y treasures up against the glory of Calvary — we ought to immediately realize our error. The Lord’s Supper is a celebration and we need to thoughtfully order our minds so that we are ready to embrace and live out the good news.

Consider how Jesus Himself, that Thursday night, faced the horrors of the cross. His disciples were about to abandon Him. Judas already had the thirty silver coins in his purse. The Roman soldiers were lighting torches and strapping on their swords. Death by crucifixion was a few short hours away. But the rescuing of the human race was such a magnificent joy in His heart that after the Communion meal, He led His ragtag little church in a song of rejoicing.

Pastor Steve Brown said it best: “The world drinks to forget; the Christian drinks to remember.”

* David B. Smith worships with a group of Seventh-day Adventist Christian believers.

David B. Smith writes from California. (16 of 28)  His web page is davidsmithbooks.com. Biblebay Copyright © 2014. Click here for content usage information.