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Food for the Hungry

When summer comes and city corners are full again of kids with bikes and basketballs, my mind returns to a particular playground. For several summers I worked at a church with an outdoor recreation ministry, whose intent was to serve the neighborhood, meeting the kids and building relationships. We played games, read stories, jumped rope, and organized basketball tournaments. One year a volunteer came and helped the kids make pottery, so we commissioned them to create some new communion plates and chalices for the church to celebrate the Lord's Supper.

Many of these kids had never taken communion before; many had never heard of the Lord's Supper or been told the story of Jesus and his disciples in the upper room. So with muddied hands we told the story, and together that summer several sets of communion plates and cups were fashioned by kids eager to see them in use. I have never seen more colorful, misshapen objects grace the altar of a
church. Nor have I ever seen so many wide-eyed children come to life at the communion table. The elders held the lopsided plates and cups, inviting the church community to come and remember the one who shapes us. The children had a physical reminder of their place at the table, and the rest of us were reminded again that we are children being nourished by the king.

In the Christian faith, the table is a place, like the foot of the cross, where we are welcome—rather, summoned—to come forward as we are: the poor to a benevolent giver, the sick to a physician, the sinful to the author of righteousness, and children to the Father of life. He has given us this sign and seal specifically with us in mind. When Jesus gave us the command to take the bread and the cup in remembrance of him, he gave us a sign of his presence that is both visible and physical. Fourth century preacher John Chrysostom suggests this is because we ourselves are physical, as is the body of Christ
himself: "Were we incorporeal, he would give us these things in a naked and incorporeal form. Now because our souls are implanted in bodies, he delivers spiritual things under things visible." That is to say, we are given a sign to hold, a memory of Christ that literally nourishes both body and soul. In the act of remembering, we are given the assurance of a real and present Christ: "Lo, I am with you always even unto the ends of the earth" (Matthew 28:20).

Coming to the table like the disciples centuries before us, we consume a meal that sustains us like any other. And yet, it is at his table that we ingest the death and life of Christ; we participate in his suffering on the cross, his humiliation and burial, his resurrection and new life—the full mystery of faith. This visible sign is far from one-dimensional. Like the children who first witnessed the Lord's Supper from bright plates painted at their own hands, it is personal. It is so much more than a meal; and yet
for the hungry it is a meal.

Christ has called the world to the table to commune with a great cloud of witnesses. He calls us to locate our salvation in the presence of a great community and in the midst of a remarkable story. We are called to see ourselves within the history of a covenant people and the vast community of believers. We are children sustained by a mighty Father, a provident parent aware of our vast need and more than able to fulfill it. We are ushered by his grace into communion and into community, beside people of all levels of hunger and hindrance, into the life and death of Christ, the journey of faith, the pilgrimage of believers, and the story of salvation. We are invited to a great and intimate table:

On the night Jesus was betrayed, he took bread and broke it and gave it to those he loved—Come, take and eat, this is my body broken for you...

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries
in Atlanta, Georgia.

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