Friday, April 2, 2010

Jesus, our Cup of Redemption

A child asks, "Why is this night different than all other nights?" Then the story is told with both narrative and symbol. It is a story of God's action to free the Hebrew people from slavery. This is the Seder. Celebrating Passover is a fun-filled, family-friendly worship experience at the table.

Last night was Maundy Thursday, the night this happened. The Grace UMC family gathered to experience communion in its most original context, just as Jesus and the disciples did as faithful Jews. A night rich with symbol and story, it was the night Jesus instituted Holy Communion. Our experience of the Eucharist will never be the same. He is the new Moses, the one who has come to free us from our self-inflicted slavery of sin.

During the night, four cups of wine are drunk (no wonder this is such a festive experience!). Though we used grape juice, we shared about what each cup means. The first is the cup of thanksgiving, and the second is the cup of remembering the plagues. The third is the cup of redemption, shared just after the meal. The fourth is the cup of Hallel, or praise.

Jesus chose the third cup to radically change tradition and to bring a whole new meaning to redemption. In Jewish Seder tradition, the Afikomen (the bread that had been set aside and hidden for after the meal) is eaten, the cup of redemption is poured, and an extra cup is poured at Elijah's place. It is hoped that Elijah would come and announce the Messiah. The door is opened by a child and everyone stands in hopes that he might come in.

But Jesus changed this. His words must have stood in stark contrast to the words these faithful Jews had heard time and again at this moment in the evening. The scripture says that "after supper, Jesus took the bread." He shared the Afikomen but called it his body, broken for us. Then it says, "likewise after supper, Jesus took the cup." He gave thanks and gave the one cup to all of them, rather than pouring individual cups of redemption, including one for Elijah, the usual way. He gave thanks, and gave them the one cup to share, saying "drink from this all of you ... this is my blood of the new covenant."

Hiddenness had been revealed and redemption was coming through the gift of his own body and blood. There was no reason to pour the cup of Elijah since the Messiah had come. Jesus did not finish the Seder rituals and the fourth cup of praise. Instead, he said "I will not drink of the fruit of the vine again until I come into my kingdom."

This holy weekend, let us remember that what he symolized that night became a reality as he gave his own body and blood for you and for me. Then he rose again in victory, releasing us from the slavery of sin.

What enslaves you? What depth of sin, painful memories, relational brokenness, or self-inflicted trauma? Jesus is our cup of redemption. Communion with him sets us free.