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Communion Meditations (2021)


Sand Dunes

Originally scheduled for October 24

Just north of Vandenberg Air Force Base and south of Pismo Beach lies the small farming town of Nipomo. Nothing much happens in Nipomo. The vegetables grow at a steady rate and offer little in the way of surprise. On the seaward edge of town there is a little nature preserve, the Gonzalez-Nipomo Dunes. In 2012 the unexpected happened there. An archaeologist was called in to evaluate the matter. Archaeologist? What do you need an archaeologist for in a sand dune? The fragments of the item in question when pieced together revealed a most unusual object.

A sphinx.

You might expect to see such a thing in Egypt in a sand dune. It’s possible you might find one somewhere else in the Middle East. But this is California, the West Coast of North America. How did you ever get a sphinx there in the first place?

The answer is relatively simple. Between 1923 in 1925, Cecil B. DeMille filmed the most expensive silent film ever made: Ben Hur. As the costs skyrocketed, the production was moved from Egypt and Rome back to the studios in California. It was the closest sand dune to Hollywood. The statuary had remained hidden in the sands for 90 years.

The object is interesting because it is so unexpected. If it had been a car from the 1920s it might’ve made it to a museum, but no great curiosity would be aroused. A sphinx, on the other hand, demands an explanation.

May I submit that in a sense communion requires the same explanation. If we were required to create a memorial to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we would start with a band full of guitars and drums. But what do we see? We see something that seems out of place in modern worship.

·        We see flatbread given to represent his body, in a time where sliced bread is quite common.

·        We see grape juice/wine, a form of liquid color, to remind us of his shed blood.

The explanation is simple, of course. This is what they had back when this was instituted. We do it to remember his body and blood being sacrificed. The entire ritual is given to us so that we might also remember his bodily resurrection from the dead. It also reminds us of his promise to return, to judge the living and the dead.

Perhaps our sense of wonder is dulled by the frequency with which we take it. Prior generations considered it much more sacred than some people do today. Consider the question: why do we do this? Why is this ritual here? It commemorates the greatest event in human history. Look at it as if it were  coming out of the sands of time, on display for the first time. Perhaps that is the awe we need to experience to truly understand why Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

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