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.”
Several years ago, while visiting a church on Sunday morning, I saw a striking communion banner. It featured a creative and tasteful weaving together of wheat stalks and bunches of grapes. I appreciated the artistry that went into the design and production of the banner and was glad to have seen it.
Help us, Lord, to work in a way that contributes wisely and well to your work in this world.
Yet, and I am in no way criticizing this banner, I find it interesting that Jesus did not use wheat and grapes to represent his body and blood. Rather, he used bread and wine. These elements were featured in the Jewish Passover meal, which formed the basis of the Last Supper. Yet, they were not only items with deep theological meaning. Bread and wine were also products made by human hands and human tools. They were the result of natural elements refined by human work.
I wouldn’t want to make more of this fact than ought to be made. Jesus’ main point in the Last Supper was not about work, but rather about his pending death and its meaning. Nevertheless, I believe it’s worth reflecting on the implications of Jesus’ choice of elements for our work. For example, in the Theology of Work commentary on Matthew 26 we read, “We cannot pretend to know why Jesus chose tangible products of human labor to represent himself rather than natural articles or abstract ideas or images of his own design. But the fact is that he did dignify these products of work as the representation of his own infinite dignity. When we remember that in his resurrection he also bears a physical body (Matt. 28:9, 13), there can be no room to imagine the kingdom of God as a spiritual realm divorced from the physical reality of God’s creation. After creating us (Genesis 2:7; John 1), he chose articles of our handiwork to represent himself. This is a grace almost beyond comprehension.”
I am not a farmer, a baker, or a winemaker. My work does not produce elements that would be used in a communion service. Yet, even as bread and wine represent Jesus, I would like the products of my work to reflect him in some way. I would like the things I do each day to honor him. I want my work to be an expression of my faithfulness to my Lord, an act of worship to the One who gave his life for me.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
As you consider the fact that Jesus used products of human work to represent the meaning of his sacrifice, what thoughts or feelings come to mind?
In what ways does your work honor the Lord? How might Jesus be present with you in your workplace?
Lord Jesus, thank you for giving us in the Last Supper a tangible, visible representation of your pending sacrifice. Thank you for choosing products of human work to represent the work you were about to do on the cross.
Lord, for most of us, our work will not literally produce items for the communion table. But we would like our work to point to you, to honor you, to make a difference for you in this world. Help us to understand how this might be so. Help us to work in a way that contributes wisely and well to your work in this world.
Glory be to you, Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.