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Communion Meditations (2015)

Things Left Behind

Originally scheduled for May 17

Everybody dies. When they do, most of them leave behind a collection of detritus which is rather accidental. I’m not speaking of the things that your lawyer will list in your will but rather the things that are left in your desk drawer, in the top drawer of your dresser and in that box full of stuff in the garage. You never think about it when you’re making out your will — and it’s usually such trivial stuff that it’s not worth bothering with. After all, when you’re dead, what difference does it make?

Most of it must be disposed of somehow. A small portion of it will be given away, either to people as souvenirs in some sense, or taken to the local Goodwill center in the hopes that someone else will be able to wear the absurdly loud Hawaiian shirt that the deceased would never part with. Some of it — usually the least part — will be sold, often at a garage sale. The rest will be disposed of as so much trash. The executor of the estate always hopes that he never gives away anything which the deceased meant for someone else to have. Isn’t it curious that things like this, which often have so much influence on us while we are living, become such a burden to those left behind?

Contrast this, please, with what was left behind by Jesus of Nazareth. The first thing you’ll notice is that it was an extraordinarily small amount. He had no place to lay his head, and therefore no place to put his ordinary items into the top desk drawer. In fact, as far as we know, the only physical possessions he had at death were his clothes. His executioners were perfectly willing to tear most of them up as scraps of cloth, but one item caught their eye and they gambled for it. Later in Christian history we find that a market developed for physical items associated with Christ. These were things like the Holy Grail, which was the cup used at the Last Supper. Fragments of the true cross – which I suspect outweighed the true cross considerably — were a popular item to sell to pilgrims in the fourth century. Even, as absurd as it seems, we have vials of blood drops which the purveyors insisted came from the execution of Christ. Some of these relics are still in churches today.

But we might ask: just what physical items to Christ intend to leave behind? You might consider that the rite of baptism would be one. But the obvious contender for things physical left behind is communion. He specifically and deliberately left us instructions that we were to consume the bread as a memorial of his body and the wine as a memorial of his blood. He left nothing else of a tangible nature. Perhaps we might conclude that he did not intend to. It is as if he intended his spiritual legacy to be great in and  his physical legacy to be limited to that which was necessary for our discipleship. Communion, therefore, is a rare item. This morning, as you partake, consider that your Lord left this one thing behind that you might see, feel and touch so that you might remember the most important thing he did: suffer and die on the cross for your salvation.

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