I had the privilege of speaking and then leading communion for 400 pilgrims tonight at The Garden Tomb. Before that we prayed at the Wailing Wall. I prayed for my friend Derek. Here are my thoughts at commuinion.
I am amazed at the layers. Jerusalem is a city of layers. We stood at the Western Wall of the Temple Platform today and saw the massive, 1st century, Herodian stones at the base of the wall, above that were Roman era stones, then Byzantine, and on some of the structures, even medieval period additions, hundreds of years of layers, every where you look. Not just architecturally, but geo-politically. We all believe that God promised this land to Abraham and his descendants. The famine drives the people away to Egypt and for 400 years the land belongs to the Cannanites. Moses brings the people out of captivity. Joshua reclaims the land. The Babylonians overthrow them and destroy the Temple and take them into exile. Zerubbabel and Nehemiah bring them back to rebuild. The Romans conquer them, the Turks take over, the British until 1948. In 1948 David Ben-Gurion establishes the nation state of Israel, but not all of Jerusalem. The Six Day War wins all of Jerusalem but the Jews allow the Muslims to stay on the Temple Mount. Do you see the layers?
Early today we walked through the Old City, through the Muslim Quarter, past the Armenian Quarter, shopped in the Christian Quarter, and ended up in the Jewish Quarter. All of that was a few city blocks. Layers. Sometimes layers upon layers. We went to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. I looked down on the stone that may have been the floor of the Tomb where Jesus was buried. It is covered by an ornate shrine to protect it. That room is inside a massive 4th century church that is controlled by the Greek Othodox but shared with the Roman Catholic, the Armenians, the Coptic Orthodox, the Syrian Othodox. It is overshadowed by the way, in its courtyard, by the minaret of a huge mosque. Layers upon layers.
Tonight as we celebrated communion I though of the layers of even that act. It began as a celebration of the exodus of the people from Egyptian captivity in the days of Moses. God said, “Eat unleavened bread, sprinkle the blood of an innocent lamb on your doorposts, and I will deliver you from Panroah.” For 1200 years the Jews retained that meaning but “on the night that Jesus was betrayed” He changed the Supper forever by adding a layer and saying, “This is my Body. This is my Blood.” Paul comes along 55 years later and adds a layer in 1 Corinthians 11 by making this a sacrament for the church. Everything has layers.
Here’s another layer. In the 15th century, Andrei Rublev painted what became a fomous icon, The Visitation of Abraham. What he really depicted was the Triune Godhead, reclined at the communion table. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit breaking bread together. A few hundred years later, when the painting was being restored, artists discovered a small patch of dried glue in the center of the painting, right at the end of the table, on the original canvas. They believe that Rublev attaches a small mirror there so that anyone who viewed the painting saw their own face included at this table with the Trinity.
Do you get that’s? That is an incredible layer. When I take communion I am connecting with 4000 years of Jewish history, and God’s love for His Chosen people. I am participating in the Passion of the Christ and His amazing act of love to redeem me. I am joining multiple millions of believers, over centuries in the Church that have come together a billion times to hear the words, “Do this in remembrance of me.” AND, I am coming to the table of reconciliation and relationship with the very Godhead Himself. Wow, talk about layers.
So here’s the deal. When I prayed at The Wailing Wall today I wept and prayed for reconciliation. I prayed for reconciliation in the City of Jerusalem. I prayed for healing for the Nation of Israel. I prayed for reconciliation for my own fractured country. I even prayed for reconciliation for those families that are separated by layers of hurt, and woundednes, and misunderstanding. Now, I don’t know how to fix all of that. Shoot, I don’t know how to fix any of that. But I do know that Jesus said, “When you come to the altar, and you remember that reconciliation is needed, go do it.” (Yes, that is my loose translation of Matthew 5!) Every time I take communion I am sitting at the table of reconciliation with God, and Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. That seems to change my place in the layers of the reconciliation process. As my daddy used to say, “You can be part of the problem AND part of the solution”
This blog got a little bit too layered I realize. What can I say? It 2am in Jerusalem. Can I ask you to do this? Google Rublev’s Visitation of Abraham and sit and picture yourself at the Table for a little while. What would you want to take care of as you sat with the Holy Triune Godhead? Next, pray for the peace of Israel today. You can do that much to bring about reconciliation. Finally, ask God to open the door for you to initiate the reconciliation you need with that person or persons that you have been “layered” from for too long.
Look, you have been touring Israel for free for the last three days. It’s about time I put a little pressure on you. And speaking of pressure, it Valentine’s Day in Israel. Does anybody know where I can buy a card?
if you are interested, I’ll try to upload the video of my short talk tonight. And I’ll try to include a link to Rublev’s painting. (I think it’s at the top)