Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Last Supper

Thursday, August 30, 2007 -- Week of Proper 16

"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location --

Audio Podcasts of today's "Morning Reflection" and those from the past week are available from (go to St. Paul's Home Page and click "Morning Reflection podcast")

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (p. 980)
Psalms 18:1-20 (morning) 18:21-50 (evening)
1 Kings 3:16-28
Acts 27:27-44
Mark 14:12-26

On the last night of his life, Jesus gave his friends his last teaching, which symbolically integrates his teaching and being. Mark (and the gospels of Matthew and Luke which follow Mark's outline) places the Last Supper within the context of a Passover remembrance. (John does not.) (The elaborate ritual of the Jewish Seder many of us have attended was not a feature of Jewish practice until after the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE.)

Meals have been central to Jesus' life and teaching. His practice of open fellowship with sinners was scandalous in a culture where dining together was a public event that sealed relationships of permanent friendship, acceptance and loyalty. The miracle of the feeding of the multitudes is the only miracle that occurs in all four gospels. "Give us this day our daily bread" is a petition at the center of the prayer that he taught. Meals are sacred.

Jesus identifies himself with the broken bread and the poured wine. The Passover relationship connects with the great Jewish story of liberation from bondage and oppression by the mighty act of God. The presence of the betrayer is a powerful reminder of the continual presence of disloyalty, ambiguity and sin within every human community. The gift of the bread and wine will become the catalyst for the disciples' recognition of the resurrection on Easter, when they will know him "in the breaking of the bread." From that moment on, the celebration of the Eucharist as a holy communion with Jesus has been the characteristic act of Christian practice and worship.

Here's a favorite quote about the Eucharist from John MacQuarrie (Paths in Spirituality):
The Eucharist sums up in itself Christian worship, experience and theology in an amazing richness. It seems to include everything. It combines Word and Sacrament; its appeal is to spirit and to sense; it brings together the sacrifice of Calvary and the presence of the risen Christ; it is communion with God and communion with man; it covers the whole gamut of religious moods and emotions. Again, it teaches the doctrine of creation, as the bread, the wine, and ourselves are brought to God; the doctrine of atonement, for these gifts have to be broken in order that they may be perfected; the doctrine of salvation, for the Eucharist has to do with incorporation into Christ and the sanctification of human life; above all, the doctrine of incarnation, for it is no distant God whom Christians worship but one who has made himself accessible in the world.

The Eucharist also gathers up in itself the meaning of the Church; its whole action implies and sets forth our mutual interdependence in the body of Christ; it unites us with the Church of the past and even, through its paschal overtones, with the first people of God, Israel; and it points to the eschatological consummation of the kingdom of God, as an anticipation of the heavenly banquet. Comprehensive though this description is, it is likely that I have missed something, for the Eucharist seems to be inexhaustible.

What a gift!


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The Rev. Lowell Grisham
Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, AR

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at

Our Rule of Life:
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.


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