1 Corinthians 11:23-26, New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
23I passed on to you what I received from the Lord. On the night the Lord Jesus was handed over to his enemies, he took bread. 24When he had given thanks, he broke it. He said, “This is my body. It is given for you. Every time you eat it, do it in memory of me.” 25In the same way, after supper he took the cup. He said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Every time you drink it, do it in memory of me.” 26You eat the bread and drink the cup. When you do this, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.
When it comes to beverages, today's children have many options to choose from. I was not allowed to have soft drinks at an early age. I didn't like apple juice, but grape juice was fine with me as a small boy. That is, until a fateful Cub Scouts camping trip with my father. We had prepared ourselves dinner by making meals where all the ingredients were placed in aluminum foil and cooked over a campfire. The only drink option other than water on this trip was grape juice. I don't know if it was the preparation of the dinner, the heat of the summer night, or the amount of grape juice guzzled, but in the wee hours of the night, I found myself stepping over my father to exit the tent as I became sick. Very sick. In fact, I was so sick that from that moment on, I could never drink a glass of grape juice without being reminded of being that sick. As years have passed, I have refused grape jelly or grape in any shape or form because it reminded me of how sick I was.
Fast forward many years as I found myself called into the ministry and presiding over a Communion Table that offers grape juice for all those who come. Each time I preside over the blessed sacrament of Communion, lift a cup, and remember that sickening grape juice, I personally am reminded of God’s love for me and how God’s grace and forgiveness saturates my life. Likewise, in the process of remembering the sacrament of Holy Communion, the grape juice becomes grace juice.
Every child has memories of special events in their young lives. They remember through stories told to them by adults. On birthdays or “gotcha days,” children hear stories of joy and celebration. Children also remember the loss of loved ones, and those memories are sometimes sad and solemn. Remembering those we’ve lost also offers a time for giving thanks to God for placing those people and those memories into our lives.
Paul writes of the Last Supper that Jesus ate before his death. The words of Jesus about the bread and his body being broken and the drink and the blood he shed gave the people in the Upper Room (and us) the opportunity to remember always how much Jesus gave himself for each of them and all of us.
Grace is a wonderful gift, but sometimes we may not view it as fair. God offers grace to everyone and has initiated salvation, and we as human beings respond to that initiative. God has chosen that all of us are to be righteous by God’s grace; a conditional election, if you will. The effects of the atonement are freely available to all those whom God has chosen, including all of us. There is no limit to those chosen by God. Grace is a gift. We don’t deserve it, and we can’t earn it. All we need to do is accept it.
As we celebrate Holy Communion, we remember what Jesus said during that meal. While it is quiet, there is no reason to be sad. Remembering shows just how much Jesus loves each of us. Even his death was a way of giving himself. That is a reason to celebrate. And we celebrate with bread and grace juice.
Have the children recall a birthday party, maybe their own. Provide gifts, birthday cake, and grape juice. Describe how grape juice can stain clothes or carpet if it is spilled. Make the transition to the Last Supper and change grape juice to grace juice with a simple definition of what Jesus did for each of us, and all of us, with this gift of grace. Ask the children questions about their favorite birthday memories. Do they remember, or were they told stories by others who were there? Show pictures of birthday parties. Try to find one where grape juice is being served. Make the connection that when we see birthday cake or certain foods and drinks, we remember certain stories. Help the children make that same connection with the bread and juice. Explain that this is a time to remember what Jesus did for us and that is a reason for celebration.
Jesus, I know just how much you love me. Thank you for giving the church such an important way to remember you with bread and grace juice. Amen.
Parents, we all know that in today's world of hectic family schedules, moments spent together are few and far between. One of the last remaining opportunities for "family conversation" is in the car ride going from one daily event to another. Download, print, and hang this Holy Week rear view mirror hanger in your vehicle. Take those moments in traffic to continue the conversation on the events around the daily devotions and discuss these questions with your family.