I have friends who take turns exchanging a basket every other Christmas. One year one of them fills the basket with small, practical and fun gifts. The next year the other person returns the basket, again filled with small gifts. For them the basket represents their friendship and love for one another. It’s not about what’s in the basket or even the basket itself. It is all about what the basket represents.
This is also true of the symbols of our faith. The Holy Eucharist is not about bread and wine. I suppose that it’s not even really about the body and blood of Jesus Christ. I have to be careful here, I could be getting myself into a lot of trouble, please bear with me.
The early followers of Jesus Christ could have chosen just about anything to be the symbols representing the central marks of our faith and proclamation. But they settled on bread and wine to represent life and joy.
Bread carries with it the idea of effort (farmers to bakers), as well as the gathered community (gathered to share food), and life (things we need to live). Wine also carries with it the idea of effort (farmers to wine makers), as well as the gathered community (gathered not only to eat but drink), and just like the water that is turned to wine at the marriage feast, wine is all about keeping the celebration going (joy).
The bread and wine that we use in our communion service is the true bread and the true wine because we have placed within them the central marks of our faith and proclamation. We have entrusted these common human crafts with the divine grandeur of the fullness of life and joy promised us in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Recalling Christ’s death and resurrection, we offer gifts of bread and wine, “longing for the bread of tomorrow and the wine of the age to come.”