1 Corinthians 11:23-26
11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread,
11:24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me."
11:25 In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."
11:26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
Two years ago I explored John’s story of the Last Supper. You can find that Provocation at http://tinyurl.com/ProvocationMaundyThursday
This year I am in the midst of preparing to write my next play. This play, a collaboration with a friend who is a theologian and a composer and with a student who is a dancer, will be called This Is My Body and will wind the words of the Sacrament around real life, and wrap real life around the Sacrament.
This small Provocation is part of my preparatory work.
Paul notes that when Jesus breaks the bread, he says, “This is my body.” The people who join us to commemorate Maundy Thursday may understand a bit about the fights pastors and other theologians have had over these words. They may have a sense of the real significance of those fights in their time. They are less likely to have read much about more recent rapprochement around such matters. Some of the people who join us would be willing to take up theological cudgels and join the old fights if we encourage them to do so. Others (perhaps a larger number) would be more likely to conclude that we think REAL theology is mostly about thinking we are right and about excluding people we don’t think are right. More than a few of that larger group will write us off as irrelevant and unhelpful.
I might be wrong.
But this year it might be wise to explore what Jesus’ words might connect us to.
It is not only in church that I have heard people say, “This is my body.” I have read it in the stories told by people in the #MeToo movement. “This is my body, not yours,” I have heard people say. “You do not have the right to act otherwise.” I have heard friends say those words when they describe the extra lessons they have to include when they teach their sons to drive: specifically the lessons that cover what to do WHEN the police pull you over, how not to get shot. “This is my Black body,” one mother said, “what are you going to do?” I have heard the same words from friends and students who find themselves in the midst of various gender transitions. “This is my body,” they say as they work to understand what those words actually mean to them and to the communities around them.
Jesus’ words point in at least two directions. They point through the bread to focus our eyes on his death by torture. And they point to the physical bread held in his very physical hand, and by doing so aim our eyes at the revelatory complications involved in the Incarnation. A Deity often imagined as the Ultimate Abstraction, knowable only in unreachable superlatives, holds bread in a simple human hand that will soon be nailed to an instrument of torture. Bodies can be tortured. Bodies can be murdered. These simple statements are true for all of us. They are true for anyBody.
Perhaps this Maundy Thursday these words link us, along with Jesus, with all those who have found themselves saying, “This is my body.” Reading it that way might put some teeth into the Mandate delivered in John’s gospel: Love each other.
One thought on “A Provocation: Maundy Thursday: April 18, 2019: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26”
very provoking- and helpful, as well!
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