A Good Friday Gathering

One of my favorite moments in the life of Jesus is the Last Supper.  I am amazed reading about the conversations, the washing of the disciples’ feet, the broken bread and wine poured out.  This year was the first week in my life that I ever reflected each day of Holy Week on the last week of Jesus’ life. It was profound and moving and I am so thankful for the friends, bloggers and scripture that led me to such reflection.

In our Noblesville Gathering, we have so many leaders who weekly open their homes, prepare and study to facilitate small groups or teach, cook for the masses and give sacrificially.  I wanted to do something special for those leaders this Easter season, and the idea for a Good Friday communion dinner was born.

I enlisted the help of my mom with the food and got busy with the preparations.  I found various white dishes at Goodwill, ironed tablecloths, bought and arranged simple flowers, made simple place cards, arranged a variety of white candles and made a few sides and a salad.  It was an act of love for many of those who serve alongside my family week in and week out.

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I watched as Jimmie prepared the unleavened bread.  I felt like I was witnessing a holy moment, the loving preparation of the bread to be broken in honor of Jesus and his broken body.

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We ate our salads and Jimmie began to talk about the significance of the bread and the wine.  He described how we “do this in remembrance of Him” in a way that is more than just mimicking the actions of Jesus at the Last Supper.  We pour ourselves out for others the way the blood of Jesus was poured out for all humanity.  Our bodies are broken and sacrificed for others the way that the body of Jesus was broken and bruised.  This is honoring the meaning behind the Last Supper beyond eating bread and drinking wine.  This is what we do in remembrance of Jesus.

We passed the wine and grape juice.  We passed the unleavened bread, breaking a piece off and passing it along.  We prayed.  We cried.  We drank the wine and ate the bread, both remembering Calvary and committing to serve the lost, broken, lonely and hurting.

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My grandmother was to my left, my mom to her left.  My daughter was to my right, sitting between mom and dad.  Four generations together, three of them women who have loved Jesus, served others and dedicated themselves to the cause of Christ… one who is learning to do the same.  As I cried and prayed, drank and ate, she did the same.  My arm held her close.  She heard my prayers, felt my tears on her hair.  It was beautiful and powerful and holy.  It was what remembering is all about and I will not forget.

As we finished, my mom and I brought out the meal.  We passed plates, served each other heaping spoonfuls of beef and noodles, mashed potatoes, corn and rolls.  We laughed and talked, a community breaking bread for a common purpose.

After we cleared plates, while we were still sitting at the table, my dear friend Heidi began to pass around small pieces of black fabric.  She reminded us of the scripture of the veil of the temple being rent, top to bottom when Christ died.  She told us many believe that veil was three inches thick and possibly 30×60 feet.  She talked about the priests of the Old Testament being the only ones to have access to the presence of God.  She reminded us that while we often may feel far from God, the veil has been rent and we have access to him.  She reminded us that even when God is quiet, he is with us.  She asked that we pray and that when we felt led, we tear our fabric, representing our barrier from God being destroyed.  She asked that we keep those two pieces in our Bibles as a reminder of our access to God.

The room grew loud with the prayers.  I sobbed, wanting to break down into a puddle on the floor, while also wanting to shout victoriously.  Such is the message of the cross.  I had chills and felt the power of God when I began to hear the sound… the loud sound of that fabric being torn at our table.

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I am so thankful for all of those who came and participated in an evening that was such a blessing to my family.  I am thankful for friends, not only the ones who were at that dinner, but all of them, who live their lives with me…. who love me unconditionally… who stretch me and support me…. who are figuring it out with me…. who love Jesus passionately with me…. who give sacrificially with me…. who aren’t afraid to remember….. and most importantly, who aren’t afraid to take up their cross and do this in remembrance of me.

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What I Gather About… The Walk to Golgotha

The road is dusty.  My gaze is fixed on him.  His eyes pierce through the layers and see my soul.  We walk.  The pace is slow.  The crowds line the road.  I know his load is heavy, but I focus on his eyes.

“Why are you showing me this, Jesus?  You know I appreciate the load you carried for me.  Do I need to appreciate it more?  Is that what this journey is about?”

I see the sweat on his brow, the anguish of the cross he does not deserve to carry.  His gaze never leaves me. We walk.

“Jesus, you know I will walk with you.  I know the price to follow is high.  I have counted that cost and here I am.  So why are you showing me this?”

And then I hear it. In all my time as a follower, I had never thought of the sounds he endured on that walk.  At first the sounds were in the background.  As my ears were opened, the voices were magnified.

Slander.  Accusations.  Hate.  Lies.  Rage.  Mocking.

Looking into the face of love, the origin of love, I am overwhelmed by the sounds.  He doesn’t deserve it.  “He is innocent!” I want to scream.  I want to silence the shouts, the screams, the laughter.  His piercing eyes tell me he feels the pain inflicted by those cries.  Yes, he is God, but he is also man and his heart breaks.

“Jesus, why am I hearing this?  What are you trying to tell me?”

When you walk with me…. when you take up your cross and follow me… you will hear what we are hearing now.  It is part of the cost of walking this road to Golgotha. 

The truth of his words penetrate into the deepest, darkest places of my heart.  Those places that are too tender to touch and so are buried in a dark corner.  Those wounds inflicted by sharp words that cut me to the core, making me question my worth and my purpose.  Those lies that I struggle not to believe about myself.  Those wounds that caught me so off guard, coming at times from my people.

But these people I hear now, on this road, these people taking aim and firing words of accusation at love himself… they are his people.  They are his family, his town.  They are the ones he talked with in the synagogue.  The ones who heard him explain the kingdom on that mountain.  They go back generations, with heritage, history, in covenant together.  The very same ones…. these are the ones I hear, even now.

We walk.  My tears blur the view of my savior’s face, but I know his gaze hasn’t left me.  I thought I had counted the cost.  Now I count again.  Is it worth it?  Accusations and lies hurt.  But if I don’t ever hear them…. am I following?  Am I on that path with my savior, walking to the crucifixion of my own flesh?

And in that moment I know, as I knew before.  No cost is too high.  If walking with him means enduring the vile sounds of the crowds, I must endure.  I must endure, for there is no walk I would rather be on than this one.  There is no company I would rather keep than my present company.  There are no eyes I would rather focus on during this journey.  There is no gaze I would rather have on me.  And so, with a heavy cross on my back, I follow him.  I follow to my death and therefore to my life.

*Disclaimer:  the previous is a conversation based on something that I saw and felt in prayer one day when I was really struggling.  I have added details for the sake of telling a story, which I hope will strengthen and encourage someone.  I am in no way saying that God and I had this word-for-word conversation.  I would also like to emphasize that I believe in spiritual authority and accountability.  The “voices” in this story are not the voices of spiritual leadership in my life.