God’s gifts foster relationships. That is why we receive good(s) from God. God’s gifts weave us into the threads of the good and beautiful Trinitarian fabric of Father, Son and Spirit.
Foremost in God’s relational gift giving is the creation of relationships in the rhyme of flesh and blood … in human form. Isn’t that what the miracle of the Incarnation is? God becomes flesh and moves into the neighborhood. Jesus became human.
Now, in the aftermath of Jesus’ life, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension Jesus rhymes his gifts through His body – the church.
On this Thursday of Holy Week we remember how Jesus gave his life to show us the rhythm and rhyme of a different kind of life. A life of self-giving servanthood (a word the Microsoft word still marks as a spelling error). On this day of Holy Week Christ played with a servant’s towel as he washed his friend’s feet and invited them to gather around the table in what we now commemorate as the Lord’s supper. On the next day Jesus gave his life. Now we are constituted as His Body.
In the Body of Jesus, we encounter what the poet Gerald Manley Hopkins memorably described as Christ playing “in ten thousand places”.
Last week Lollie and I had the privilege to experience Christ playing “in ten thousand places” – the specific place being Brazil. With this unique part of Christ’s body, we journeyed around the Eucharistic table (Microsoft wants to capitalize this word) that we remember on this Thursday of Holy Week.
For three days we trekked with 48 pastors into the stories and invitations of the table Jesus instituted on this day. As our trail started we sat around a pristine white table with the Eucharist elements of bread and wine placed on a clean surface. Four conversations converted this clean table into a different space wherein the clinically clean table became a tapestry of the joy and pain of our textured lives. Death and resurrection.
The tables of Jesus are meant to be places wherein we become real and calibrate our lives with the grand narrative of the kingdom.
Our time around this table was spent with very little teaching and a whole lot of sharing (none of the teachings exceeded 10 minutes). During four conversations we explored these questions:
“What are the invitations in your life?”
“Where are you experiencing pain?”
“What is your responsibility in/for the pain?”
“How can you encourage the people in your group in their pain (without preaching)?”
One of the most powerful moments we experienced was when we brought our pain one-by-one to the table and read our statement of pain to the rest of our brothers and sisters. Our pain became part of the fabric of the table. Later on we also read our confession in terms of our own responsibility in the pain.
At this table we were invited to bring our real lives into the rhyme of the meal Jesus instituted on this day. Every session ended with the sacrament of bread and wine. This table became part of the fabric of my life in non-cognitive ways that seeped into the core of my being. Today I am thankful for the life of Jesus and how Christ plays in ten thousand places.
May Christ find in our lives a place to play.