“Back to the basics: Take eat, this is My body”
I Corinthians 11:23-26
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.
Let’s pretend for a moment that you are a contestant on the game show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire? And this is your million dollar question--what was the first thing Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin ate and drank after they landed on the moon?
And here are your choices--was it a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich? Was it some kind of protein snack in the form of toothpaste? Maybe a “space food stick”? Is that your final answer?
Believe it or not, the correct answer is the bread and wine of Holy Communion!
This is what Aldrin said: “On the day of the moon landing, we awoke at 5:30 a.m., Houston time. Neil and I separated from Mike Collins in the command module. Our powered descent was right on schedule. With only seconds left of fuel, we touched down at 3:30 p.m. ‘Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed.’ Then I unstowed the elements in their flight packets and put them and the Scripture reading on the little table in front of the abort guidance-system computer. Then I called back to Houston. ‘Houston, this is Eagle. I would like to request a few moments of silence…and invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever he might be, to contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his own individual way.’”
And during that brief blackout, Buzz Aldrin opened a small cloth package of bread and wine. Then he poured wine into a chalice from his church that, in the one-sixth gravity of the moon, curled slowly and gracefully in the cup.
And so the very first food ever eaten and the first liquid ever poured on the moon were the consecrated elements of Holy Communion. Resting on the moon’s Tranquility Base in the blinding light of the sun, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong celebrated the Lord’s Supper.
I’ll read the words of I Corinthians chapter 11. It’s where the apostle Paul writes: “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, ‘This is My body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way also He took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (I Corinthians 11:23-26).
It was Maundy Thursday night and Jesus, always the Master, knew full well what would soon take place. He had made it so perfectly clear.
He said, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. He will be mocked, spitefully treated and spit on. They will scourge Him and crucify Him” (Matthew 20:18-19).
Even more, as Jesus sat with His disciples that night, He knew full well what they were about to do. They were His closest friends, the ones He counted on during the most difficult times. For the past three years, they had given up everything just to follow Him.
And what amazing times they were! He took five loaves of bread and a couple of fish, then He blessed them and fed thousands. As the wind and the waves once threatened to sink their boat, Jesus walked on the water and calmed the sea.
With their own eyes, they watched as He healed the blind, the crippled, and the demon-possessed. With their own ears, they heard His countless teachings and parables. And now, as they gathered around the table that night, they sat down to celebrate the journey, the friendship, and the three incredible years of ministry. It was a night they would always remember.
But as Jesus looked around the table that night, He also knew that, before the night was over, they would fall asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane as He fell facedown to the ground and poured out His heart in prayer. Judas would betray Him with a kiss. Peter, the first and foremost disciple of all, would call down curses from heaven and deny even knowing who He was. Then the rest would forsake Him and run away.
Still, in spite of all that was about to take place, before the meal was done, Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it and said, “Take eat, this is My body given for you for the forgiveness of sin.” Then He took wine, gave thanks, and said, “Take drink, this is My blood of the new covenant, shed for the remission of sin. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
Luther wrote in the words of his Small Catechism: “What is the Sacrament of the Altar? It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, for us Christians to eat and to drink, instituted by Christ Himself.”
“And what is the benefit of such eating and drinking? That is shown us in these words: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins; namely, that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.”
And he wrote in the words of his Large Catechism: “If a hundred thousand devils, together with all fanatics, should rush forward, crying, ‘How can bread and wine be the body and blood of Christ?’ I know that all spirits and scholars together are not as wise as is the Divine Majesty in His little finger…and while it is true, indeed, that if you take away the Word or regard it without the words, you have nothing but mere bread and wine. But if the words remain with them, as they shall and must, then it is truly the body and blood of Christ. For as the lips of Christ say and speak, so it is, as He can never lie or deceive.”
Or as another author wrote: “If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.”
At some time in our lives, most every one of us has been on a team--maybe a sports team or even a project team at school or at work.
And there’s something unique about teams. You’re not just an individual; you’re part of a group. And the best team is one where you’re able to work together with others, using the gifts God has given you.
And in a sense, communion is very much like being on a team. Look at most any painting of the Last Supper and you’ll see them all seated together, trying to be close to Jesus.
And so it is for us. That is, by the way, why we call it “Holy Communion.” We’re all in this together. We’re on a team. For at His table, Jesus takes us as individuals and He makes us one.
And at this table, in spite of our differences, whatever they might be, they all disappear in the one Lord Jesus Christ.
That is, after all, what Paul once wrote to the Ephesians: “There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call--one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-5).
And when we come to the Lord’s table, it’s been said that there are two dangers. The first is an overwhelming sense of despair, the feeling that we don’t belong here, that we’re not worthy to be here.
For when you come to the Lord’s table, a thousand images flash across your mind--events from the past, skeletons from the closet that come rattling out and cry, “You’re not worthy. You’re not good enough to be here.”
And as you flip through the pages of your past and remember the words that should never have been spoken and the things you wish you hadn’t done, you begin to think, “How can I, of all people, come to the Lord’s table?”
And the other danger is the feeling that you have every right to come to the table. After all, you’re righteous and good. At least, that’s what you say in your own mind.
But the apostle Paul, knowing the sin that lies inside each and every human heart, wrote to the Corinthians: “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.” And he said, “Let each one examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself” (I Corinthians 11:27-29).
Or as Luther wrote in the words of his Small Catechism: “How is a person truly worthy and well prepared? He who has faith in these words: ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’ But anyone who does not believe or doubts is unworthy and unprepared, for the words ‘for you’ require all hearts to believe.”
A little over sixty years ago, back in 1958, author Isak Dinesen told the story of an old man who lived in a small town with his two daughters. He was the pastor of a small group of Lutherans, and together they lived a humble life. Then when he died, they continued his legacy. They kept the church going and helped the poor.
Then one day, a ragged-looking woman named Babette showed up at the sisters’ door, holding a letter from a friend. She spoke only French and had fled from Paris with her life. And the letter asked if they’d be so kind as to take her on as a maid, since she had lost her husband and son in the war, and had nowhere else to go. The sisters agreed.
At first, they were wary, but they soon came to realize that Babette was good and strong and kind. The girls and the poor loved her cooking.
Then one day, as the sisters were planning to celebrate what would have been their father’s one hundredth birthday, Babette discovered she had won the lottery in Paris. And she asked if she could return to Paris for a few days, to purchase everything she needed for the feast. The sisters reluctantly agreed.
Days later, strange bottles, boxes, and ingredients began to arrive at the house. Then when the day finally came, the guests arrived, and they sang the father’s favorite hymns.
And they sat down to eat. And as they joined in one course after another, they ate food they had never tasted before, and drank the finest wine. When the meal was done, everyone stepped outside to sing under the stars.
After the guests had left, the sisters found Babette in the kitchen, surrounded by piles of dirty dishes, pots and pans. They thanked her for the fine meal and for all of her hard work. That’s when she admitted that she had once been the head chef at one of Paris’ finest restaurants.
When they asked if she would return to Paris now that she had the money, she said she’d never go back, for she had spent her entire winnings on that one meal. She had given it all away.
We have a Savior who’s given everything away. Born in a stable, laid in a manger, crowned with thorns, and pierced with nails, He’s the Lord and Savior of all.
As Paul once wrote to the Philippians: “Though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).
In this holy meal, dear Father, You have given us reason to rejoice and to remember the great gift our Savior once gave on the cross. Help us in our time and place to give constant thanks for all that He has done, for His sake. Amen