I’ve had a rare privilege … being home for three weekends in a row, and being able to attend my home church ( as “just a member,” not preaching, etc. I’m very fortunate to be able to attend the church I helped plant back in 1982 and then helped lead for 24 years. (It’s amazing the church survived having me as their leader for that long!)
Over these three weeks, I’ve heard two splendid sermons by Matthew Dyer, and another splendid sermon by Patsy Fratanduono. And the music, beautiful grounds, and even the good fair-trade coffee have also been a joy, not to mention the people. Having been a pastor, I know how hard it is to keep a church going, and I know how challenging it is to weather the thousand little discouragements and to handle the thousand little details required to put together a gathering week after week … so I guess I appreciate this experience more than many people would.
Today during the eucharist, a new thought hit me. (Isn’t it amazing that after well over 1100 experiences of the eucharist in my life – it still is fresh and yields new meaning?)
In Jesus’ death, his blood was drained from his body. That is, crudely put, what death meant to most people in Jesus’ day – especially violent death: the separation of blood and body. Today it struck me that in instituting the eucharist, Jesus was saying something like this: “My blood is about to be separated from my body, but when you take my body and blood into your body and blood, you will reunite them. I will live again in you. I will be resurrected in you.” This is not to minimize Jesus’ Easter-morning resurrection, but to suggest a major dimension of its meaning.
This thought also helps me understand Jesus’ statement in John: “Greater things than these will you do because I go to the Father …” Since hearing that statement as a child, I was bothered by it. If we said this, it would quickly be called blasphemy: how could we do greater works than Jesus? But since Jesus said it … we can’t push it off the table. Was Jesus eager to make it clear to his disciples that the story of the gospel was only beginning in him, and that they would continue it … leading to unimagined possibilities in the future? (This, I suspect, is why Jesus would often say, “Your faith has healed you,” rather than “My divine power has healed you,” or even “God has healed you” or “I have healed you.” By emphasizing their faith, he was empowering them to carry on his work.)
My little meditation this morning then led to this: In Jesus’ death, his spirit left his body. That’s what death is for many people – the separation of spirit and body. (I’m certainly not arguing for the old dualistic, Platonic-Cartesian ghost-in-a-machine view of humanity in saying this … I’m just using language the way it’s commonly used in colloquial speech, recalling Jesus’ words, “Into your hands I commend my spirit” – which could also be understood as “Into your hands I commend my breath,” or “… my life,” by the way.)
In Pentecost, Jesus’ Spirit is reunited with his body, with us. So today, Pentecost and eucharist came together for me in a rich way, so that when I looked around the room, I saw in a fresh way “the embodiment of Christ,” the body of the risen Jesus alive and well on the earth. Maybe you’ll feel as I do today, that Pentecost is a far more important holiday than we often realize … its meaning is inherently linked to the resurrection … and to Jesus’ ongoing proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom of God. Just as Jesus came to proclaim the kingdom, and just as he sent us to proclaim and teach what he had proclaimed and taught … we continue as the ongoing embodiment of Christ, proclaiming and living the good news of God’s kingdom, by the power of the Spirit. Thanks be to God!

Join the Mailing List