February 6, 2016 • Life for Leaders
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
A Note from Mark:
I want to introduce you to my friend Tim Yee. I have known Tim for many years as an exceptional student of mine, a colleague in kingdom work, and a brother in Christ. He is the pastor of the Union Church of Los Angeles, a Japanese-American church that is now building a diverse community in the midst of downtown Los Angeles. Every week, Tim serves leaders in the business community as well as homeless people from Skid Row. He pastors senior adults and urban Millennials. He is living on the front edge of the kingdom of God. Tim’s four devotions, two of which will run today and tomorrow, are thoughtful reflections on how the reality of Communion informs and shapes our life in Christ for the world. I commend these devotions to you with gratitude for Tim and his pastoral leadership.
In the church I lead, we serve the Lord’s Supper on the first Sunday of each month. We have found this to be a good rhythm in our community. This practice not only brings together diverse people around our common Savior, but also sends us out as a community to replicate the life of love that our Lord Jesus calls us to emulate in our daily lives. Sometimes I remind my busy folks that this monthly five-minute portion of our worship service was originally a full Passover meal that would have provided not only fuller stomachs but also rich imagery to feast on as well.
The truth is that, in and through our brokenness, God will indeed use us, whether we’re at home or at work, at church or walking in our neighborhood.
In today’s text from Matthew 26 we see Jesus with his disciples celebrating a Passover meal. Ancient Jews — and our Jewish friends today — shared this meal annually. It reminded them of God’s faithful deliverance of the Jews from Egypt over 1,000 years before Jesus. This was a singularly defining event in Israel’s history. God’s wrath came upon Egypt and only those who put their faith in Yahweh by slaying a lamb and spreading its blood on their doorposts would be saved as the angel passed over their household. Death came to any who did not faithfully come under the blood covering of the substitutionary sacrifice. Through the Passover, we learn that God’s gift of salvation is a costly one that requires sacrifice.
In fact, in 1 Corinthians 11:24, some manuscripts record Paul quoting Jesus’ words as, “This is my body, broken for you.” Perhaps your own tradition of the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist uses these words, which emphasize the centrality of brokenness that precedes the release of God’s mighty saving power.
In Life of the Beloved, Henri Nouwen considers the bread that Jesus takes, blesses, breaks, and gives at the Last Supper. In speaking of the broken bread, Nouwen reminds us that God’s beloved sons and daughters are like that broken bread in the hands of Jesus. Because Jesus himself took on brokenness to bring healing, our own brokenness can be redeemed when we remember we are in the hands of our Savior. In the wise words of Nouwen: “The deep truth is that our human suffering need not be an obstacle to the joy and peace we so desire, but can become, instead, the means to it. The great secret of the spiritual life, the life of the Beloved Sons and Daughters of God, is that everything we live, be it gladness or sadness, joy or pain, health or illness, can all be part of the journey toward the full realization of our humanity” (Life of the Beloved, 77).
This means, among other things, that we don’t have to be perfect for God to use us. Sometimes we think so, and then step back from serving others in God’s name. The truth is that, in and through our brokenness, God will indeed use us, whether we’re at home or at work, at church or walking in our neighborhood. Because Christ was broken for us, we can serve others and serve the Lord.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
What pain in your life is part of your life journey right now whether in your family, work, finances or health?
Is there a pain affecting the world that grabs your attention? Might this be something God is calling you to address?
How in your daily work and life is suffering a regular theme and how do you presently see God working in it?
Jesus, thank you for choosing to allow your body to be broken so that we might experience healing. As we rest in your loving grace each day, give us the confidence to hand over the painful areas in our lives and realize that you are a great redeemer and restorer of broken things. As we face broken systems in our own lives and in the lives of those whom we serve at work, may we find confidence in the fact that you gave your life on the cross so that brokenness would be ultimately redeemed and restored. May we, in our brokenness, be part of your healing work in this world. Amen.