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Communion Meditations (2020)



Originally scheduled for May 3

(The story which follows is probably apocryphal.) A certain minister was giving a tour of his new church building to a group of ministers from other churches. The building had been built on a lavish scale, using only the finest materials. At the end of the tour the minister pointed to the cross on the top of the steeple. “Solid gold plated,” he said, “Cost us ten thousand dollars.”

“You were cheated,” said a minister from the poor side of town. “Time was, a Christian could get one of those, free.”

There is a curious fact pointed out in this story. The cross as it was originally designed was a rough and crude instrument of torture and death. We, the Christians, have turned it into a beautiful symbol. We make crosses out of silver and gold; we have even made crosses out of prison bars. In each instance we have tried to convert the crude instrument of torture into something beautiful and very meaningful. Why do we do that?

·         In some instances, it is a form of honor. Most wedding rings are made of silver or gold, and this emphasizes the importance and permanence of marriage. A similar thing can be said of a gold or silver cross.

·         In some instances it is a form of gratitude. At the cross we receive salvation; at the cross we receive forgiveness; at the cross we become children of God. For these things, gratitude is a perfectly natural and righteous response.

·         Sometimes it’s just that we are doing our best. We are, as Oswald Chambers once put it, doing our utmost for His Highest. The best deserves the best.

This may be why Christ never asked us to make gold and silver crosses. Instead, the memorial he left us is quite the opposite — it is symbolic of suffering and death.

·         The bread symbolizes to us the bodily suffering of Christ. It reminds us of the nails through his hands and feet. It reminds us of the spear in his side. It reminds us of the pain he endured for our sakes.

·         The cup symbolizes to us the blood of Christ, shed for our sins. We remember that blood is itself the very life of a human being. If you let it leak long enough, the victim dies. Christ died an agonizing death as his blood slowly left his body.

We look at the cross and make it beautiful. It may be elaborate; it may be made of precious metals. It reminds us not only of his sacrifice but of his resurrection, and the great resurrection to come. It is altogether fitting that we make a cross which is a reminder of his victory over death. It is also fitting that he has left us the reminder: the beauty of the cross was obtained by the suffering of the man who died on it.

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