By: Fr. Jeff Huston*
What does it mean to be fed? Better yet, what does it mean to be fed at the Lord’s table? I probably don’t spend enough time thinking about if, I’m honest with myself, regardless that presiding at the table remains one of my chief responsibilities as a priest. Don’t worry, I am not planning on an extended discourse on the sacrament of Holy Eucharist, but I would like to spend a few moments reflecting.
Starting with the basics, we have Mark, Matthew, and Luke (chapters 14, 26, and 22, respectively) recounting the story of Jesus celebrating the Passover meal with his disciples. His Last Supper. What does Jesus say? What is His command? “Do this in remembrance of me.” Seems simple, right? But I think there is a lot more going on here. This is so much more than an olfactory or visual trigger of fond memories. You know what I’m talking about here, I’d venture to guess that we’ve all been set adrift on memory bliss due to some random sight or smell. The thing is, these are passive remembrances. This isn’t what Jesus had in mind. The verb at issue here is anamnesis. It can be defined as “reminiscence and or memorial sacrifice” (from wikipedia, so it must be true.) But more than that it is the very essence of what it means to gather in worship and praise, not in a passive sense but in an active, engaged, encounter with the whole mystery of Christ.
When we approach the Lord’s table, we are crossing a threshold of time, entering that strange space between past, present, and future. We look back and remember the words of institution, when Jesus changed a meal together with friends and disciples into a memorial that we continue honoring to this very day. We look to the present as we taste and see the Lord’s goodness brought to us in bread and wine, Holy Spirit, flesh and blood. And we look forward to the great banquet that awaits all of us on that blessed day we are reunited with our loved ones in our Lord’s nearer presence. In one fell swoop, we are thrust into the past, present, and future of our life in Christ. Shortly put, this is no snack.
We are not just remembering, we are participating. Actively participating as members of Christ’s body, the joyful (hopefully) cloud of witnesses raised to new life through the baptism, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That is a lot to chew on, isn’t it? For me, being fed at the Lord’s table is all about being reminded of whom I belong to, who I share my life with, those who are waiting for me on the other side, and the starting point for not only my ministry, but the ministry of ALL God’s beloved ones. This isn’t just being fed, it is becoming filled and equipped for the work God has given us to do.
I want to conclude with a poem sent to me by one of our parishioners at St. Andrew’s here in Stillwater. I had been mulling over what to write so the other day when I received this I knew that I must include this for you all. It sums up beautifully not just what I have been hoping to say, but also the gift of approaching the Lord’s table.
I am grateful for Lois Jackson, her thoughtful and prayerful pursuit of her life in Christ, and her ministry here in Stillwater.
The altar table is set.
Ready is the holy banquet of my Lord.
Ready am I to attend?
I must rise to the occasion.
I lift my heart to the Lord.
I follow then my heart.
I approach the altar.
Holy, Holy, Holy.
I am ascending to my Father.
In Christ, I am ascending.
Heaven and earth are full of thy glory.
I have ascended and arrived.
Looking through Christ with my Father.
I can see, as above, then so below.
Earth is full of thy glory.
The face of God is upon all and in all.
I partake, I eat, I am infused.
I am filled.
I hunger no more.
This feast reminding me I have what I need
to nurture every aspect of my divine being.
I reluctantly begin my descent.
Knowing at a mere intention
I remove the illusion
that I am not always and eternally present
with my Abba.
I, then, in gratitude,
do the thing that is mine to do.
I, then, in gratitude,
do the thing I cannot not do.
I go in peace, to love and serve my Lord.
I want all to experience as I.
I want all to know not that there are many rooms
in my Father’s house,
but that there is one large banquet hall where
all are welcome.
All are nurtured.
All are contained in Love.
Thanks be to God!
*Jeff Huston, associate rector at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and Episcopal campus minister. Ordained a priest 10 years. Gratefully married to Dr. Elisa Davis and proud (albeit unworthy) father of Clayton and Eleanor. Chicago Cubs fan. Still sad I never got to see the Grateful Dead in concert.