How do you introduce to a largely unchurched youth club the central mystery of the faith? How do you make real the real presence of Christ in their midst, draw them into understanding both the form and an insight into the theology of the mass, whilst keeping them engaged and even slightly more interested.
This evening, Matthew, this will be my challenge.
Whenever we do something important, it often comes with a meal attached: birthday parties, weddings, baptisms, the school-leavers prom or a party at the end of a job. Families mark special events in the year with a shared meal at Christmas or Easter.
Reveal a clear wine bottle with Ribena in it, a chalice, paten and slice of normal household bread. Sit in the middle of the floor with a corporal laid out like a picnic cloth
The man gathered his friends around him, and they shared a special, significant, last meal. He knew that it would be the very last meal he would share with them for some time. During the meal, he took the bread: the common, everyday bread which is at the heart of all meals, the kind of bread which we take forgranted, which provides us with the nourishment and sustenance to live and work. He thanked God for it, and shared it between them all (do so), he said “this bread isn’t just bread, it isn’t just food, it isn’t just a meal. It’s much more than that. This bread is my body. It might look the same on the outside, but it’s much more than this. When you eat this bread, you share in me, my life, my mission, my purpose on this earth. Share. Share with others. Share in me. When you eat normal everyday bread, it becomes a part of you – you swallow it, absorb it, and it gets excreted in the normal way; but when you eat this bread, my body, you become part of it, you become part of me, and whenever you do this, whereever you do this, I will be with you.”
He then took the wine, thanked God for it, and poured it out. “This wine” he said “isn’t just wine. It isn’t just a drink, a commodity, a refreshment for the body. It’s much more than that. This wine is my blood: blood that will very shortly be poured out (pour out the blackcurrent juice into the chalice), spilt out for you. When you drink this wine, you share in me, in my future arrest, death and the life that I promise to you beyond all that. It might look the same on the outside. It might still taste as sweet, as strong as it ever did when it was just ordinary wine, but through it, you become a part of me. Whenever you drink this wine, share this wine, you share in my everlasting life and whenever you do this, I will be with you”.
And for the past two thousand years, whenever the Christian Community have gathered, they have broken bread and poured out wine, and that promise has always been true: for Jesus has been really with them, with us, with this bread and this wine. Although we cannot see Christ with us, we can see the effect he has on the community, just in the same way that we cannot see the wind, but see the effect the wind has on the trees.
A few decades after it happened Paul, his friend, would recall that “everytime we eat this bread and drink from this cup, we keep Jesus with us, until he comes back again”, and he has never let us down.
…and it worked! Sitting in a big circle, acting out the story, handing round the bread – you should have seen them sit up attentively when I reached for the wine bottle and they wondered if they might actually get some wine out of this… (but of course, it was only Ribena, I wasn’t going to take that much of a risk), passing round the cup (only when A. took a sip would the others actually dare to…) and hearing the story of salvation. I was able to promote the Blesséd [and pray inwardly for some of them to come and the Multimedia Stations. Herein lies an issue – if I was leading the group and it was done by another, I could take a load to it, no problem; but because I am doing it, I can’t organise that, so I have to rely on them getting to it unaided, which of course won’t happen.
The club was good. It wasn’t a struggle tonight, it was actually quite a pleasure. Deo Gratias!