Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Matthew 26:26-28
“Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.” Luke 24:35
Blessing and thanksgiving: the two go hand and hand. The power of blessing and thanksgiving: they are two sides of the same coin.
When we bless someone we confer divine favor on them. We bless and glorify God. We bestow praise on Him. Blessing is a good and powerful act.
When we give thanks for someone or something, we recognize God as the divine giver of good gifts.
In the family and tradition I grew up, we had the custom of blessing the meal – breakfast, lunch and dinner – and then thanking God for it afterwards. That may seem like a lot to people who are not used to praying for their meal at all. It may seem like a lot of praying, period.
I am sure that the whole tradition developed out of this reading of communion: Jesus blessed the bread and then gave thanks. We ask God to bless what we’re about to partake and then we give Him thanks for it afterward. We recognize Him as the giver of gifts and then we thank Him for it afterward.
It strikes me in the reading of Luke 24 that the disciples recognized Jesus in the process of breaking bread, that He was known to them in the course of this meal. I think somewhere in the process between blessing the meal and thanking God for it afterward we recognize Jesus, we have a greater revelation of Him.
Somewhere in the process of blessing and thanksgiving, God is made known to us in a greater way, we have a revelation of Him, or we encounter Him in some way.
As we take the Lord’s Supper, be open to the reality that Jesus might want to make Himself known to you in a greater way than you previously knew Him. Expect to encounter Him in Communion. As we bless the elements and thank Jesus for what He did for us on the cross, expect to have a greater revelation of who He is to you. It may or may not have anything to do with Communion. It may simply be that He wants to reveal another aspect of Himself.
Sometimes we come to God looking for an answer to a problem we have and we end up walking away with a greater revelation of who He wants to be for us.
Do not look for the living among the dead. Do not think that Communion is a mere remembrance. Expect to encounter the Living God in the midst of this sacrament. Jesus did not give us sacraments to go through mere motions or rituals as if we’re checking off another item on our religious “To Do” list. When we focus on who He is, what He has done for us, and who He wants to be for us, expect to have a meaningful and enriching experience.
By Ralph Veenstra