(This communion meditation took place in a series at our church on spiritual desperation.)
One morning this week I reflected on how God designed simple, tangible, physical things in our life to show us how needy and dependent we are. Every day I need hours of sleep. I can skip sleep or try to cheat it, but I pay the price. Every morning I wake up reminded my energy is limited, my body is weak, I’m not strong enough to just push through, and my health is in part dependent on physical rest. It’s similar with food. At least three times a day I have to eat. I get hungry and thirsty throughout the day and my body’s strength, health, and ability to work effectively and think clearly depends on food.
I think part of the theological significance in these things is they teach us we aren’t self-sufficient. We are needy, dependent, and weak. This isn’t a negative thing, but it’s a basic part of who we are. We are creatures, and creatures are dependent beings. Our life is given to us and everything we need for this life has to come from Someone else and from things outside or beyond us.
This is one reason the Lord’s Supper or Communion exists and why Jesus told his church to practice it regularly when we meet. As you and I can attest, our neediness, our weakness, and our dependence go beyond the physical or mental and it includes the emotional and spiritual. Don’t you have moments throughout the week where you feel spiritually dry and empty, as if you have nothing to give? Maybe you even feel like that right now.
We are not spiritually self-sufficient or independent. We’re not even strong. We are broken, needy, and desperate for life. We can’t create it or muster it within ourselves, but need it from someone else. Not only that, but are hearts are sinful, deceptive, and dark. We’re confronted every day by our inability to change, by our sinful commitment to pursue my way and put me first, and by absolute dependence on God’s grace and mercy to keep going.
This is where Jesus in the gospels connected who he is and what he offers to basic things like bread and wine. Without those basic needs, we’ll go thirsty or starve. Hunger pushes us to find satisfaction in food and drink. Jesus says, I am the bread of life. I am the wine. I am the living waters. Your spiritual desires and hungers, your weakness, your neediness and dependence, your fears, even right now that desperate sense of wanting a taste of God and his grace, all that is to point us to feed and drink of Jesus.
Jesus alone welcomes the weak and offers to refresh us. Jesus alone welcomes sinners and promises mercy, forgiveness, and his own righteousness. Jesus tells us to come to him in our need and our pain and our brokenness and he will give us his strength. He will hold us up with his power. He will be enough for us.
The eating of the bread and drinking the cup remind us of our needs. It helps us perform an act of faith where we eat these elements saying it’s only the life of Jesus that can sustain me today, and it’s only the blood of Jesus that can make me new again this morning.