While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.
the Last Supper
Oh, I prefer Thomas
whose joy was tempered by
How can this be?
There is a story we read with the youth called The Ragman by Walter Wangerin. It is the story of a man who trades new clothes for old rags in the city. With the new clothes comes healing, and when the ragman puts on the old clothes he takes on the wounds of the people he trades with. At the end of the story the ragman dies, and then comes to life again--the narrator witnesses the strange sight of this man and asks for his own miracle--to be dressed by the ragman and to be healed in the act.
My colleagues weep at the end of this story when they read it, and I love them for that. But my attention is caught in the middle of the story:
After that he found a drunk, lying unconscious beneath an army blanket, an old man, hunched, wizened, and sick. He took that blanket and wrapped it round himself, but for the drunk he left new clothes.
And now I had to run to keep up with the Ragman. Though he was weeping uncontrollably, and bleeding freely at the forehead, pulling his cart with one arm, stumbling for drunkenness, falling again and again, exhausted, old, old, and sick, yet he went with terrible speed. On spider's legs he skittered through the alleys of the City, this mile and the next, until he came to its limits, and then he rushed beyond.
The narrator is drawn to follow the ragman beyond the city limits, desperate to see what happens next.
But I want time with the weeping, bleeding, drunken, sick ragman, skittering through the city on spider's legs. I want to hear the stories, I want to bring him soup, I want to see what he sees.
And I am so aware of time! It rushes by so quickly--Christ's ministry was three years only! I have been here in New Jersey now almost eight years--how is that even possible? My children are nearly grown!
So much to be done, so many loose ends, so many things left unfinished. I wake early in the morning sometimes, overpowered by the nagging sense that I have left things undone. And I am right! This is no false anxiety--there is no end to this work, to this life, to the ever-present need of the people and world around me. And if I am honest, there is no end to my need.
A therapist once told me that the only two things an adult needs are oxygen and water, and perhaps a little food. I understand his point--but he was wrong! We cannot live by bread alone, and so there we go, skittering through the city on spider's legs, seeking love and care however we might find it.
What else could have inspired the disciples to follow Christ? What else could open the purses of the women who loved and cared for Jesus and his band of stragglers?
And now a last supper, full of tensions and unfinished business. How do we read Jesus in this last meal? Full of enough love to include Judas in the dinner, but angry enough to curse him. Intimate enough to wash their feet, distant enough to not fully explain. "I will be with you always." "I will never drink with you again in this life." Come to the garden, but you cannot come all the way. My time is ending, but please God, if it is possible, let this not be! (And was this not Peter's same plea?) The certain knowledge the disciples would betray him and his forgiveness for that, juxtaposed with his frustration that they could not stay awake in the garden to wait for his late night prayers.
So many unanswered questions! So much love not fully expressed! And now, in these last days, not enough time for farewells or last embraces. Was Mary not at the last supper, even? A last intimate moment with Mary Mag?
Could any of them move about in familiar places without thinking of Jesus in the days to come? Did his presence linger in every doorway, every meal, every habit of life?
Skitter on ahead to the death and resurrection, if you must, but I want more time with his life. I am deeply drawn to Jesus' fleshly existence--I cannot sit with his death yet. I won't be ready tomorrow, either. And by Sunday, with the trumpets sounding and the sanctuaries full of lilies, I will still be stunned at the tomb.
It is too soon. Won't you sit a while, Lord Jesus? And if you must be hurrying and skittering, take me with you.