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THIS IS MY BODY … BROKEN FOR YOU (Views from the Abbey 25)

Tuesday evening at Spurgeon’s College back in the 1960s was Devotional Evening when the entire college community would gather in the College Chapel for corporate worship and to listen to God’s Word together, and once a month to share Communion. One such evening we had a somewhat elderly retired Baptist Minister – prominent in his day – leading our time together. It was a wonderful evening but when we came to Communion he really struggled to break the bread (whoever had prepared the Communion had neglected to subtly cut the underside of the loaf beforehand). Initially we feared that the Minister’s struggle to tear the loaf would spoil the evening … but actually it made it. Having spoken to us of the cost of the cross for Jesus on our behalf, the Minister’s seemingly endless battle to break the bread reminded us that it was no easy thing for Jesus to make salvation possible for us!

I thought then, and I have often thought since, that when Jesus first spoke those highly significant words, ‘This is my body … broken for you’ at the Last Supper (recorded in all three Synoptic Gospels), he was not just thinking of his own body about to be broken on Calvary’s cross, but thinking of the disciples seated with him around the table – the embryonic church, if you like – the body of believers, the ‘body of Christ’ as the Apostle Paul describes the Church (1 Corinthians 12:27). Did Jesus, just for a moment, lift his eyes look at these handful of believers and envisage a church made up of men and women, their lives laid on the altar of life for God, going out into a broken, rebellious, hurting, yet needy society to take the life-transforming Gospel (in all its multi-faceted layers) out into the world.

Bob Pierce (1914-78) was an American Baptist Minister and evangelist. Much of his work was in Asia, but after a visit to suffering children on an island in Korea, a significant sea change took place in his life. He was so deeply moved by the sacrificial service of the dedicated missionaries that he met, and the plight of those people they sought to serve in Christ’s name, that he became a changed man.  He wrote this famous prayer in the flyleaf of his Bible: ‘Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God!’ He came home and founded (the now well-known) Christian Relief Organisation, World Vision in 1950. I vividly recall reading Richard Gehman’s book Let My Heart Be Broken (which tells Pierce’s story) c. 1968 whilst a student at Spurgeon’s. My friend, and prayer partner, David Carter read it at the same time and one day felt so deeply moved that we both prayed that same prayer in one of our prayer times. After we had prayed it there was a long pause … and then David turned to me and said, ‘I have a dreadful feeling that God heard that prayer … and took us seriously!’

It was a former Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple (1881-1944) who famously suggested that ‘The Church is the only organisation that does not exist for itself, but for those who live outside of it.’ Are we prepared, as individual Christians and as a church, to be ‘broken’ by Christ so that like the alabaster jar (in the incident at the home of Simon the Leper recorded in Mark 14:3,4) the fragrance of Jesus might fill the room? If we continue to splash around in the shallows of preserving the existence of our church we will surely die, but if we ‘launch out into the deep’ (Luke 5:1-11) as Jesus exhorts us, we will not only survive but grow!

Broken for me, broken for you,

The body of Jesus, broken for you.

He offered His body, He poured out His soul;

Jesus was broken, that we might be whole:

Come to My table and with Me dine;

Eat of My bread and drink of My wine.

This is My body given for you;

Eat it remembering I died for you.

This is My blood I shed for you;

For your forgiveness, making you new.

Broken for me, broken for you,

The body of Jesus, broken for you.

~ Janet Lunt  

Jim Binney

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