Too soon we rise; the symbols disappear; The feast, though not the love, is past and gone. The bread and wine remove; but Thou art here, Nearer than ever, still my Shield and Sun. (Horatius Bonar 1855)
We were just in Switzerland where we visited a small village church. Afterwards, a table was spread with the most wonderfully baked and delicious breads, of every kind and shape imaginable. Bread is so much a staple of human existence that today we even call it a comfort food!
Every meal Jesus shared with the disciples included bread. When he came to the two men on the road to Emmaus, “he was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread” (NASB Luke 24:35). And at the Sea of Galilee after the resurrection, the early morning meal he shared with them once more was fish and bread.
Although denominational believing may differ over the form of the body of Christ and the blood of Christ in the Eurcharist, for me there is only one focus—the Lord himself. We celebrate our nearness to the spirit of Jesus, the “bread of God,” with the breaking and eating of bread.
That’s because communion, for me, isn’t ultimately about remembering someone who is gone as much as it is about celebrating someone who is always present. The living Saviour is always here with us, nearer than our heart, more who we are than our own soul—as basic to our very life as bread.
And I think that nearness is what Horatius Bonar is celebrating. We rise from the communion table, the daily one and the formal one, with the assurance that we are no longer isolated and self-dependent, but, instead, companioned and deeply loved. In spite of what we’ve done or will do, the Lord is still our “Shield and Sun”—our protection and our guiding light. Opening ourselves to that “nearer than ever” presence heals and sustains us. “The bread and wine remove; but Thou art here.” Amen.