By Laura Hermakin
Reverend, Christ Church Trinity
Have you ever wondered about the significance of Holy Communion? Well, imagine walking the roads of Jerusalem in first-century Palestine. It hasn’t rained in weeks and the roads are so dusty that when the wind picks up, you can barely breathe. It’s spring, days are getting longer and the sun is getting hotter. You’re a disciple of a rabbi whom the Romans and Jewish leaders believe ought to be killed.
It’s dinner time and Passover, and you’re hungry, thirsty, and anxious. The rabbi, Jesus, had earlier pointed to a room where Passover could be served – a place where you’d be safe, at least tonight. As you enter, you smell bread baking. Jesus takes some bread – soft, warm, and smelling like heaven on earth – says a blessing, breaks some off, and shares it with everyone present.
Sharing this meal is a celebration of your faith in Jesus. Eating, you delight in the flavour, texture, and warmth of the bread. Faith tastes good and relieves hunger. Faith sustains and strengthens. Jesus pours wine into a cup, says another blessing and passes it around. As you drink from it, tasting the sweetness and smelling the aroma, you know that sharing this cup also means having faith in him. It is a refreshing delight.
After three years with the rabbi, you know God made a covenant in the Torah with Moses. You know that Jeremiah had promised a new covenant when the Messiah comes. The rabbi is the Messiah. The prophecies are being fulfilled, as God promised! Slowly it dawns on you. You’d been so intently listening to Jesus’ words that only now you realize – he hadn’t said the traditional words for Passover. He dared to invent a new kind of Passover, about faith in Jesus and a new covenant. You’re silent, savouring these minutes alone with Jesus, enjoying the pleasures of faith and his presence.
There are many lessons in this Holy Communion, including the simple flavour of the bread and wine. But on a hot, dry, dusty spring day in Jerusalem, a day spent on your feet, climbing the steps to the temple and walking steep, narrow city streets, the bread would taste like life itself. And the cup – to someone who’d eaten a large piece of bread and is very thirsty – would taste like a resurrection. Imagine, returning home filled and quenched, having shared a special dinner with friends, as these emblems symbolize our faith, and faith is food that fills and satisfies and sustains for life.