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written by Constance Morgenstern

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Background for "Lord, Before that Quiet Meal"

Part of me doesn’t want to attempt a study for this song at all. Communion can be such a personal encounter with Jesus. What I think or feel about it may not resonate with you. However, communion—I’m realizing more and more—is a gift to us as Christians together. Because of that, there are some shared comments to make, or thought-sparkers, or at least, explanations.

About communion, Jesus said, ”Do this to remember me.” (Luke 22:13-20,
1 Corinthians 11:23-26) This song includes a few recollections that any Christian--from the disciples at the table onward--could have about the Lord.

Probably one important moment the disciples remembered was the Feeding of the Five Thousand. (It’s recorded in all four gospels!) I especially like the version in John (John 6:1-13), because in later verses (35-58), Jesus is shown to say, and elaborate upon, “I am the bread.” His elaboration really does tie that statement to the communion meal's words that the bread is his body. It is fitting that such a memory would start this song.

The second verse of the song includes the moment of Jesus’ first miracle. It was at the wedding feast in Cana, where Jesus turned a vast amount of water into fine wine (John 2:1-11). Any of us might be reminded of this miracle when thinking about Jesus and wine--and there are other connections that I'll mention later. For now, though, let's begin focusing on Jesus' words about the wine in communion, that it is the “new covenant” in his blood (Luke 22:20, 1 Cor 11:25). What does that mean?

Jesus was trying to convey how both his life and death would lead us to eternal relationship with God.

Thinking of Jesus' life and death, we remember how communion is also called “The Last Supper.” Jesus started the practice on the night before he was crucified. We feel the sense of "good-bye" in Jesus’ words as reported by Matthew (Matthew 26:26-29). Jesus says that he won’t be drinking wine any more with his disciples until he drinks it with them again in the kingdom of God. Surely, his death is quickly approaching, but there is comfort that the disciples will meet him again!

Matthew’s writing also includes the words that the wine, Christ’s blood, is poured out for people for the forgiveness of sins. I like that Matthew records this, because it’s a little easier for diverse, modern Christians to grasp, even while it has deep roots in the Jewish faith. Forgiveness relates to the "new covenant," but there is more.

A covenant is a spelled-out agreement or promise. When God promised the people of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, that they would be “His people,” he gave them instructions for their conduct through their leader Moses. (Part of these are The Ten Commandments.) Like the people of Israel, all people today fail when it comes to following God’s precepts. But God, in his grace, produced another plan for our relationship with him.

Take in Jeremiah 31:31-34 for a description of what God had in mind!!!

The “new covenant” is a way for us to be forgiven, and to know God with our full selves. This is the gift in Christ’s sacrificial death and the sending of the Holy Spirit.

It must have been difficult for the disciples to accept that their beloved worker-of-miracles would [let himself] be killed by his enemies. (See Matthew 16:21-23.) However, Jesus’ words at the last supper help put his death into the context of God’s wider plan—foretold centuries earlier by prophets like Jeremiah.

The timing of the crucifixion also frames Christ’s death as a saving act. It happened during the sacred time of the Passover, when Jews annually remembered how God had delivered the people of Israel from brutal slavery in Egypt. You might recall, from the Old Testament book of Exodus, how the Egyptian leader Pharaoh refused to "let the people go" and how God sent plague after plague to weaken Pharaoh's resolve. Finally, the angel of death killed the firstborn of every household in Egypt—except that the angel skipped the houses of the Israelites. The Israelite families had each been told to kill a spotless lamb, and to use its blood to mark their doorways, as a signal to be “passed over” by the angel of death.

Jesus is the Passover lamb, for everybody.

It is quite amazing to learn the parallels between the Passover meal’s traditions and Christian theology. (If you’ve never looked into this, do!) For the disciples at the last supper, these rich connections were present. Yes, much rests in that quiet meal!

While I had not known about the rich Passover connections all my life, I have always been moved by another way that Christ described his relationship with believers. The night of that last supper, he also said, “I am the vine” (John 15:1-8) What I love about this one, is that it’s so beautifully present-tense! Jesus is with us every moment. We are connected to, and fed by, the Lord.

One thing I like to envision/claim while taking communion is the bread and wine becoming incorporated into me, both as a physical rebuilding as well as a source of spiritual energy. I do find both strength and comfort in the taking of communion.

But I think Christ very much intended that communion also connect us to other Christians (John 17:11, 20-23). In my home congregation, we kneel at a railing to receive communion. I like to visualize the lines of people, at the railing and extending down the center aisle, as part of Christ’s vine. The Apostle Paul uses additional imagery to describe the unity of Christians during communion. He says that the bread which feeds us, all comes from the same, one loaf (1 Corinthians 10:17).

All Christians are connected to Christ and each other in communion by remembering the words and actions of our Lord. But communion is not just about the past and present. Looking forward from the present time, we consider Christ’s promise about his drinking wine with his disciples in the coming kingdom of God.

Now I’ll admit that I took a small leap in the song by associating God’s “future fest” with the story of Jesus’ first miracle at the Cana wedding feast. You won’t find that in the story of the feast in John 2. But Jesus, in his teachings, did describe the coming kingdom of God as a wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14).

Plus, even during his life here on earth, Jesus was described as, and described himself as, “the bridegroom” (John 3:26-30, Matthew 9:14-15, Matthew 25:1-13). The book of Revelation (a futuristic vision of the Apostle John) continues this description. It talks about a wonderful marriage feast to come between “the Lamb” Jesus and his bride, which is the church of believers (Revelation 19:6-8).

Marriage. The new covenant. Connection. Communion is part of our connection until that day.

It has always astonished me how Jesus, on the night of his hurtful betrayal and just before the horrible death he knew was coming, could spend so many of his last hours concerned over his disciples! He gave them this meal of remembrance. Like the Passover meal, it was given to continue providing them with strength, unity and “familyness."

But, Christ designed that meal for us, too— If you don’t think that future believers were on his mind, look at how Christ prayed for his future believers that very night (John 17:20-23)!

Oh, yes— Much rests in that quiet meal. Remember Christ. Be blessed.


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