I took communion today. In a graveyard. Looking out across stone monuments commemorating people who have left the dirt of earth behind in their wake. I knelt there, in the moist dirt, feeling the spongy softness under my knees and pondering. I flipped pages to a story of long ago. Of a lady with an alabaster vial, and I prayed “Oh God, let me be like Mary! Let me break the vials in my life as though nothing else matters but you!”
I kept flipping pages, looking for a story I never found, because I found instead what He wanted me to see. I saw Jesus, in preparation for His own crucifixion, begging God to make His Church one… unified. And I saw Jesus, in the same preparations, forewarning His disciples that they must suffer, but promising that in suffering they would receive glory.
I closed the book, as droplets of rain were falling upon pages I wished to protect, and I picked up my sliver of bread. I broke it and gave thanks. Because that’s what Jesus did. “The Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.'” (1 Corinthians 11:23b-24). On the night of His betrayal. On the cusp of looking Judas square in the eye and telling him, “What you do, do quickly.” (John 13:27), then watching him rush out to go sell his soul for a few pieces of silver. Oh, the ache!
Jesus, lifting bread to heaven, gives thanks. He knows the agony of what is about to take place. But He also knows the glory that will follow. He knows that soon He will sit in His rightful place, at the right hand of the Father, with heaven for a throne and the earth for a footstool. He knows all things will soon be in subjection under His feet, that His followers will soon have unbroken communion with His Spirit. He knows that when He says “It is finished”, all will be set right in the cosmos.
Yet He still has to face the cross. So He breaks bread and gives thanks, because thankfulness is the weapon of our warfare!
In 2 Chronicles 20, when Jehoshaphat set out to battle, He sent the worship leaders out at the helm of his military fleet. He knew that praise paves the path to victory! Jesus knew that, too.
Lifting my eyes to the sky and my hands to heaven, I suddenly feel complete peace about what lies ahead. About the unknowns we are all experiencing right now. Because right now, everything ahead is an unknown. I guess it is always that way, but it all feels especially vulnerable right now. Like the earth is spinning off it’s axis and all we can do is watch. That’s what I accidentally believe when I forget He holds the whole world in His hand!
A hundred times a day I have to wrestle my heart back into remembering that my God is sovereign. Yet this sovereign God surrendered to the suffering of the cross. I remember, as I give thanks for this broken bread, that Jesus’ suffering was the passageway to His resurrection. That there would be no empty tomb without a blood-stained cross. And that whatever I may have to suffer in this life will be the path to my own glory.
I once read and memorized a part of Psalm 66, because life felt like a crushing weight. It says “Bless our God, o peoples, and sound His praise abroad, Who keeps us in life and does not allow our feet to slip. For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net. You laid an oppressive burden upon our loins. You made men ride over our heads; We went through fire and we went through water, Yet You brought us out into a place of abundance.” (Psalm 66:8-12). I saw it crystal clear and have never been able to stop seeing it, that the place of abundance is beyond the trials and the trials are nothing more than the pathway to the place of abundance.
Kneeling in the graveyard, with eyes, arms and heart lifted up to an eternal throne, I remembered that no matter the path’s briars, Jesus is leading me to a place of abundance. It may be that we should suffer in these days. It may be that He provides a ram with it’s horns caught in a thicket. It may be that He should allow us the honor of following Him to the cross, or it may be that He would take our offering back off the altar and return it to us, like He did for Abraham with his beloved son.
Either way, when my focus is on the suffering, I lose focus. The lens of my soul gets blurry. Yet, when I lift up my hands and give thanks, it re-calibrates my spirit and reminds me that this life is so short and insignificant compared with the glories that await, and that my suffering (and your’s, if you are a Christian) is absolutely, completely, magnificently purposeful!
Standing resolute before His own assassination, Jesus lifted up the bread representing His own broken body and gave thanks! Because He knew! And on this Resurrection Sunday, I do, too. It’s all for His glory and my good! And I will rise!