A Communion Meditation
Mark A. Matson
I suspect that it has happened to all of us at some point. Life is going along fairly well, things are in control, the future has a certain predictability – perhaps things even look hopeful … and then the bottom drops out. Perhaps your closest friend – maybe even your boy or girlfriend- rejects you and you find yourself alone and unsure about yourself. Perhaps a sudden illness, possibly life-threatening, is diagnosed, and you come face to face with pain and fear. Perhaps you suddenly lose a friend or loved one, by death or divorce or some other tragic event, and suddenly everything is different. Every moment is redefined from “what might be” to “what might have been.” Or perhaps the darkness of depression simply overpowers the brightness of life. We don’t know when the brightness faded, when it became too difficult to face the day, when even the smallest obstacles seem suddenly huge-but here we are, depressed and alone. We have all been there in some fashion – some more regularly than others, but all of us occasionally. In one way or another we all know that life holds no guarantees, that we are always on the brink of sudden reversal.
In such times a sense of future often recedes or vanishes. We can see little prospect for improvement. It is as if darkness settles in around us. Instead of being in control of life, life spins out of control, throwing us to the ground, shaken and shaking. Instead of order, our world is instead defined by chaos. We expect nature itself to turn on us, if not literally then figuratively. Every moment becomes a struggle to keep from being swept out to sea by the gale forces buffeting us. The ground under us, the assumptions about life that support us, become shaky. In times like this, what we need most is to find a firm place that can hold us fast from being swept out to oblivion. We look desperately for even one rocky point in the midst of the stormy sea that we can sink an anchor into, and hold on for life itself. For if we are attached to one firm point, we can at least grasp with all our might until the gales subside, until some degree of calmness and order is restored. Though we be tossed about, still the fixed point offers hope that there is something real for us to count on, to hope for, to trust in.
The table of the Lord is just such a fixed point. Each week we can count on the same elements of Jesus’ body and blood. No matter how confusing the week is, I am reminded here in a very tangible and physical way of God’s love. Here I eat the bread and remember that God does not love just abstractly, but sent his Son Jesus as a real person – with real doubts and real temptations himself – to show us His love. Here I drink the wine which demonstrates how God’s love even embraces suffering and death. And here, around the table, are gathered others who in the midst of their own weakness and struggles take time to care and pray and work together as a body. And it is here that I am reminded, amidst the darkness, that life is not hopeless, that I am part of something greater that even chaos cannot defeat. It is perhaps for just these reasons that Paul was led to say about the Lord’s Supper: “as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you make known the death of the Lord until He comes.” (1 Cor 11:26). Paul in this passage connected two fundamental issues as being integrally connected: that of the historical reality of Jesus’ life and death, and, at the same time, the affirmation of a hope for the future.
So it is into this solid rock, the rock of Jesus himself – made manifest in the weekly Lord’s Supper – that I sink my anchor. And though the storms of chaos arise – this week, this semester, or sometime in the future; here at Milligan or at home; whether an internal experience or an external threat – when fear and doubt assail, yet I can hang on. For I am attached to something real – the rock of ages. And knowing this, I can endure, for there is Hope.