Matthew 26:26-30

While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Matthew 26:26-30

Staple foods are the basic elements of peoples’ diets that are widely available, store well, and provide much of the people’s basic nutritional requirements. When I grew up, potatoes were number one on the list. At least it seemed that way as most dinners began with a trip to the scary burlap bags in the basement to get a pot of potatoes to boil. The first time I heard Bubba extol the glories of shrimp in “Forrest Gump” I realized that anyone from North Dakota could probably do the same with potatoes.

Bread and wine were staples in Jesus’ day. Bread was as plentiful as wheat fields. Unleavened bread stored a long time. While it had limited nutritional value it did have that one thing that my mom appreciated – it filled you up. It was better than nothing. And wine, likewise, was as plentiful as grapes. The alcohol content was its preservative. Everybody drank wine. Some, too much.

Both bread and wine had deep roots in Jewish memory banks. Wine stretched all the way back to Noah’s vineyard (also a lesson in drinking too much too quickly) and bread to the manna in the wilderness that sustained the lives of God’s people. It is no wonder that both bread and wine made their way into the spiritual and worship lives of the people of Israel. Both were signs of God’s provision, God’s generosity, the wonders of God’s creation.

Thus, when Jesus picked up the bread and then the wine at the Passover meal he celebrated with the disciples, it was a “normal” thing for him to do. It was expected. It was tradition. But what wasn’t at all normal, nor expected, was the manner in which Jesus personalized it. Jesus went off script in saying “this is my body” and “this is my blood.” I figure that the quizzical disciples had no idea what he was talking about. They, unlike Jesus, didn’t see the cross just around the corner.

Fast forward now to the other side of the cross and the resurrection. Jesus is no longer physically present with his disciples. All they have left are his promises and their memories. Their dinner tables still include, as they always have, the basics of bread and wine. Very quickly it occurred to them, in eating and drinking, they were remembering that last meal with Jesus. They saw him present in the bread and the wine. They remembered him. They remembered his words about a new relationship, a new covenant, about the forgiveness of sins. It is no wonder that bread and wine now found their place as a staple of their worship life.

Every time I am privileged to repeat those words of Jesus over bread and wine I am reminded that – just like my mother called us to gather around the dinner table – so too now the body of Christ gathers again around the table. We are in the same space. We come together only to be sent back out. And just like our family dinner tables, we are fed far more than food.

Let us pray: Thank you Lord that you created such a simple way to bring us together around you, around your promises, around your presence. We confess that we, in our desires to get things right, or our fears that we veer off track, make that meal far more complicated than it needs to be. Bread, wine, your words, your presence, strangers become meal companions. It is enough. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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