A few years back I tried an experiment with a large group of young adults. I had two buckets on the stage. One was labeled “Secular” and the other “Sacred”. I pulled out some note cards one at a time with different words written on them and asked the college students to choose which bucket I should place the cards. We started off easy.
The crowd yelled unanimously, “Secular!”
Again, they shouted confidently, “Secular!”
Some mild hesitations this time, but overwhelmingly, “Secular.”
They regained their confidence now and proclaimed, “Sacred!”
Again, a resounding “Sacred!” was heard.
The room went quiet. Some were whispering. I demanded an answer and I heard an uncomfortable, “Secular?”
What I enjoy most about the last meal Jesus had with his friends was how ordinary it must have been. These men had spent three years with Jesus and had countless meals together just like this one. I imagine there were plenty of inside jokes, stories, some swearing (They were mostly fishermen after all) and lots of laughter.
I can imagine Jesus leaning forward to grab some bread while chuckling while standing, and then preparing to say something. The guys silence after a bit. I can see Peter taking longer than the others to quiet down. Then Jesus shares with them why this ordinary bread and wine that night is more special, even sacred. The disciples slowly start to grasp the magnitude of what Jesus is saying. Their good friend is going to die. Everything is going to change. This is a moment they will never forget. This secular meal had been made forever sacred.(1)
For Jesus it was never merely bread and wine.
It was not just a bucket and a well. (John 4)
It was not just 99 sheep. (Luke 15)
It was not just a touch in a crowd. (Mark 5)
Ir was not just some water and a towel (John 13)
It was certainly not just some nails and another execution that day. (Mark 15)
God’s ability to discover the sacred in the secular has a way opening our eyes. After that, Jesus followers started opening their eyes to much more than dinner. One of my favorite stories is when Paul walks into Athens and notices all these idol statues built to various gods. He takes particular note of one statue that is made to “the unknown god.” Paul doesn’t get all offended at this secular setting but instead discovers where Jesus is working. He even compliments them and points out God is closer than they think. In the conversation, he even quotes one of their “secular” poets,
‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ (2)
I can’t help but wonder if we’ve made communion so sacred that other meals are just a school night dinner. Have we made church so important that Monday is just a work day? Have we even made ministry so spiritual that my 9-5 is just a job?
Perhaps one of the points of communion is to allow us to never see dinner the same way again? Not only that, but it compels us to look more closely. We push back this self constructed dualism of secular and sacred in our lives and search for Jesus in every moment. So that…
It’s not just another homeless person.
It’s not just a barista making my drink.
It’s not just an interruption while I’m trying to get some work done.
It’s not just another night of putting my kids to bed.
It’s not just a commute and traffic.
It’s not just believer and non-believer, gay and straight, or even Christian and non-Christian.
I want to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and discover the sacred in the secular. Like Moses, I don’t want to merely take off my shoes because the ground beneath me became holy. I want to discover the ground always was holy.(3) I want to live this life with a heightened sense of expectancy because God is at work all around me and he has a reputation of being found in the most surprising of places. Oh, and I’d like to listen to the Beastie Boys without some Christians getting all pissy. 🙂
1. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
2. Acts 17:28 There you have it, a “secular” poem in the “holy” Bible
3. Exodus 3:5