Broken, Given: three addresses in Holy
Rev Sue Lucas
Taken, blessed, broken, given. It is instantly
recognisable to Christians in the catholic tradition; it
is the fourfold pattern of the Eucharist – at least
according to that classic of liturgical theology, Dom
Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy.
But it is also, of course, the pattern of our Lord’s
ministry: called, by his Father; blessed, as the beloved
at his baptism; broken, in his passion and crucifixion;
and given, for the life of the world. And it is the
pattern of our Christian calling too, unfolding in a
particularly intense way in Holy Week, which culminates in
the institution of the Eucharist itself, and the saving
acts of Jesus’ death and resurrection that it embodies.
These resonances are, directly, found in scripture; for,
the New Testament speaks of the Body of Christ in three
related senses; sometimes, the human being, Jesus, the
embodied, anointed, Son of God, his good news yesterday,
today and forever; sometimes, it means the living bread of
the Eucharist; and sometimes, it means the Church, with
its many limbs and organs, we who are linked to Christ in
baptism, and fed on him in the Eucharist.
In each of these senses, the body of Christ is taken,
blessed, broken, given.
Of course, we are taken – we are called; we are God’s
priestly people, anointed – ordained, we might say – in
our baptism. As our OT passage reminds us, it is we
through whom Israel is renewed; even though we’re not
particularly wise, or smart, maybe – more like St Paul’s
Corinthians, often foolish, often frightened –
nevertheless called, taken, desired, even – for the
privilege of being God’s people.
And to be the Body of Christ begins in blessing, in
abundance - begins with God’s limitless generosity,
God’s relentless mercy, enduring purpose, abundant grace,
unfathomable love. It is not that we have enough –
but we have too much - it is all overwhelming,
We are blessed with more than we could ever desire or
Yet, surely, we live amongst scarcity: the constant news
at the moment is of austerity and deficit. And, of
course, we’re not immune to it in the church: Growth
Agendas and the like are things that properly and
seriously need to be addressed. But the problem is
that they borrow the clothes of austerity, deficit and not
enough…not enough bums on pews, not enough new people, not
enough children, not enough money, and, if we have rather
too many buildings, not the right sort of buildings
–another kind of scarcity.
So I'm going to suggest we start from a rather different
operational theology, if you want to put it like that –
that God has blessed us with abundance.
And in case you think I’ve gone soft, and it’s all about
‘good strong positive thinking’ - well, today's
Gospel is pretty unequivocal: we start by dying. And
this does not undermine or alter or compromise the God who
blesses us – for the God of blessing and the God of
judgement is one – and the witness of scripture is that
those who are blessed by God will face great challenge and
demand – think of Isaiah, writer of our OT lesson; of
Jeremiah, remaining faithful to God amongst humiliation
and exile; of Elijah, speaking truth to power, and Mary,
blessed among women, who bore our Lord from the scandal of
his birth to the scandal of his death. Those who are
blessed will also be broken.
And it's nothing less than our calling to die – for we are
baptised into the death of The Lord. And Jesus was
crucified because religious people were unable to accept
his way if showing who God is.
It's hard for us to die; hard to let go of our way of
being the church, of a repeated cycle of past events,
whether triumphant or disastrous, that stops us from
embracing an emerging future. So it needs to be
given time; time to acknowledge the liturgies, clerical
characters, traditions and buildings that have nurtured
and shaped people’s lives, to give thanks for all that has
been and to acknowledge our sadness at what is
passing. But we can't stay here for too long, and
there is a need to recognise that the inherited practices
of a church are often just a few generations old – over
two millennia, patterns of church life have died,
sometimes painfully and violently, sometimes organically
and naturally, and made space for resurrection.
So, we are taken – out of our comfort zone into God’s
future; we are blessed, with God’s abundant life; and we
are broken – called to let go of what is most dear to us
to fall into the ground and die.
And to undertake this difficult vocation needs 3 things:
community, conversation and imagination.
Community – that’s not a club of the like minded, of
course, but rather like the Corinthians, a kind of unruly
ragbag of the great and the good alongside the great
unwashed, of those who are our best friends and those we
frankly can’t stand. In fact, a community not unlike
the unlikely twelve Jesus himself gathered.
Conversation – conversation not discussion. For
discussion literally means to cut to pieces – to slice up
someone else’s argument. Of course, that has its
place – I’m a philosopher by training after all! But
it is not the way we build up and renew that body of
Christ. Con-versation is something different – it’s
a little like, con-version – turning round, which in turn
is like metanoia, the Greek word often translated as
repentance. We need to repent, by being in
conversation with one another and with God. And that
might mean letting go of our most treasured stories about
ourselves and learning to accept that many different
accounts, different, even contradictory stories, hold
between them the ‘broken middle,’ fragments of a complex
reality. It is hard for us sometimes to learn to let go of
habits of just waiting for others to stop talking then we
can say our piece, and to believe we can do so without
being doormats. But once we realise we do, and we can,
then new and alternative stories can emerge about the
future that are not thought of as a betrayal of the past.
And then, perhaps as the church, we can begin humbly to
recognise how limited our understanding is of God’s world
and God’s ways, and be released to know in our own hearts
and to proclaim in word and sacrament the God who
comes in the humility of Christ incarnate, crucified and
risen, and who constantly remakes us, the church, in the
outpouring of his spirit at Pentecost. Amen.
Taken, blessed, broken, given.
Yesterday, we reflected on what it meant to be the Body of
Christ, taken and beloved, and blessed; and that those who
are taken and beloved have a demanding calling, a calling
to be willing to be vulnerable, to enter into
brokenness. And in today’s Gospel, we are surely in
the midst of brokenness. Betrayal. One of the most
challenging forms of brokenness is finding out that we
have been betrayed, let down by one closest to us, who we
trusted and loved. For if it was an enemy that
reviled me, I could have borne it – but even you, my
companion and my own familiar friend.
When we feel betrayed, let down, how easy it is to lash
out – to blame and to revile. Yet, part of what it
means to be blessed and broken is here – amidst the worst
forms of overwhelming, it takes maturity and discipline
not to blame, but to wait patiently for God.
And what of the betrayer themselves? The story of
this week is full of betrayal – there is Peter’s, of
course – vehemently denying his Lord, even when his
Northern accent betrays his real identity. And the
disciples whose gossamer commitment rapidly evaporates in
the Garden of Gethsemane.
Perhaps one of the worst forms of brokenness also is
realising how we can ourselves be the betrayer, the one
whose faith lets them down, or whose self-righteousness
gets the better of them, often through lack of awareness
or patience, sometimes even through perversity and
The first, is the disciples and Peter; what we see in them
– and often in ourselves too, of course – is failure of
imagination – failure to see what God is up to, wanting
signs and reassurance. This is, in one way, failure
to see ourselves as blessed. We find, like Peter,
that our minds cannot stretch to the enormity of God – and
we try to reduce God to a size we can understand, perhaps
put him in a box, and genuflect when we walk past.
We might have to run away and flee a few times before we
get what it means to be taken, and blessed and broken.
The second is perversity – turning away from God, and
trying to make a life for ourselves using our own
resources. And here, perhaps, we encounter
Judas. Wherever we encounter Judas in the Gospels,
there is invariably a reference to the economic – in the
story of Mary anointing Jesus, he is quick to point out
the exchange value of the ointment she used. And in
tonight’s Gospel, we are reminded of his role keeping the
common purse. Judas lives entirely in the world’s
economy – the economy of scarcity, not enough, austerity –
of bigger walls, not bigger tables. And the story of
his betrayal is told in economic terms, of course – 30
pieces of silver.
Some scholars think that Judas was a violent revolutionary
– a member of the sect called the ‘sicarii’ or dagger
carriers – who were looking to overthrow the hated Roman
rule from Palestine through guerrilla tactics, and who
perhaps saw in Jesus a revolutionary figure around whom
insurgency could gather. I suppose nowadays we would
call them a terrorist organisation. And that way
lies death, as we know from our own times, even the news
of recent days, but also from Judas’ own story. And
Jesus, of course, explicitly renounces that temptation –
it is the temptation of the Kingdoms of the World that we
heard read at the very beginning of Lent. And, of
course, the kingdoms of the world are all about scarcity,
not enough, protecting what you have, building
walls. The generous excess of God in Jesus would
never be enough for Judas. A disappointed
revolutionary perhaps explains his betrayal, as Peter’s
lack of imagination explains his.
Who do we identify with, I wonder? Judas, with
worldly ambition and anger? Or Peter, full of
enthusiasm, but not – or perhaps rather not yet –
understanding the depth of what his calling asks of him.
Yet, in the midst of this, we have Jesus who does not lash
out and blame; who is not self-righteous, or violent in
protesting his innocence; but he certainly isn’t a
doormat, either – he is quietly in control – do what you
have to do quickly – and at the end of today’s Gospel,
seeing the bigger picture – now is the Son of Man
So this is what it means, to be blessed, broken,
given. Even in the face of the worst overwhelming,
the worst brokenness the worst betrayal – to stand in
blessing; it is God, not we, that is in control; to absorb
the violence of that betrayal and to return it in a form
it can be processed, understood and transformed.
This is one with turning the other cheek – which is not,
of course, passivity, or even non-violent resistance – but
a positive insistence that the Other recognise our
humanity, even in the face of the worst forms of betrayal.
And it is one with the Cross, on which violence was borne
– and overcome; not with triumph, or vengeance; but with a
new and totally unexpected iteration of blessing, gift and
generosity. Even the worst of our betrayals, our
perversity and lack of imagination become, through the
Cross, the instruments of grace and renewal.
So, in this Holy Week, can we answer the call to be
reconciled? To repentance – to metanoia – to turn
–to recognise the humanity even in the worst of those we
perceive to have betrayed us, and to dare to see clearly,
confident in the love of God, in our own humanity the
potential for betrayal through failure of imagination and
perversity? And can we, even in this, dare to see
ourselves as blessed? For, in the Cross and
Resurrection – nothing – not even the worst that we can do
to ourselves and one another – can finally fall out of
God’s sense for the world. Amen.
Taken, blessed, broken and given.
This is the pattern of our sacramental life and our
It is the pattern of the Body of Christ – Jesus – in his
incarnation, passion, crucifixion and resurrection – given
for the life of the world.
And it is the pattern of the life of the Church – the Body
of Christ with its many limbs and organs, incorporated in
Christ in baptism and fed on him in the Eucharist, in
which we see the fourfold action of taken, blessed,
Tonight, this comes together; before he is broken and
given for the life of the world, Jesus washes his
disciples feet – in preparation for the demands of the
life of discipleship; unlike Mary, who anointed Jesus’
feet in preparation for his death, they do not yet
understand what it means; not just an act of humility in
the washing, but a preparation for death in being washed.
And if there is an echo of our baptismal drowning in this,
this is the night on which Jesus gives us the sacrament in
which we are fed until all sacraments will cease.
Why will they cease? They will cease because the
world has recovered its sacramental vocation – the more
bread is broken, the more it is shared, and all creation
will be renewed in the great eschatological banquet.
The Fall was the loss of our sacramental vocation – a
fall, if you like, from God’s economy of generosity and
justice into an economy of scarcity and violence.
We live between two meals – the meal that was about
scarcity, primal humanity noticing the one thing they
cannot have amidst the plenty that they can – and the
eschatological banquet in which all are fed. We live
in the in-between time, the time of the Church, the time
of sacraments; and most particularly, the sacrament the
Lord gives us this night.
And as the meal in-between, it has elements of both the
Fall and the eschatological feast; it proclaims God’s
generous love, God’s enduring purpose, God’s relentless
grace; yet, it is proclaimed in the face of the worst kind
of failure, hurt and betrayal – ‘on the night before he
The Church – and one recent writer has described the
Church as simply the plural of disciple – is the
in-between community, nourished on the in-between meal –
the body that is taken, blessed, broken and given.
For, we are called, through the grace revealed in Christ,
taken, blessed, broken, and given, and nourished on the
sacrament – taken, blessed, broken and given – to proclaim
God’s generous love, God’s enduring purpose, God’s
relentless grace – even in the face of the worst
brokenness, the deepest hurt, the most damaging betrayal –
there are echoes here of the 23rd Psalm – to recognise
that God spreads a table for us in the presence of all
that threatens to hurt us, and even in that place, anoints
us as his Holy people.
Why? that the world might become Eucharist; for to be
Eucharist – to be taken, blessed, broken, given is not
just an event, but a process – a to and fro dynamic,
between Fall and completion; between now and not-yet,
between gathering and being sent out;
It is not perhaps usual to think of mission in terms of
the sacramental; but that is precisely what it is – one of
the great 20th century writers on mission, David Bosch,
wrote there is mission because God is a God of love; and,
whilst human love fails, God’s love never fails; in the
midst of all the failures of human love we see tonight,
Jesus tonight gives us the Eucharist in order that,
through us, the mission of the God of generous love,
relentless grace, enduring purpose to make the world
Eucharist might come about.
And this is our call to be taken, blessed, broken and
given; to bring to every Eucharist our discoveries and
surprises, our sorrows and our joys our bitterness and our
brokenness, our flourishing and our wrestling with God, as
we aspire to truth-tellling, reconciliation, repentance,
need-sharing and other disciplines of being sharing; of
hearing the gifts and demands of the Gospel, of being
willing to understand the depths of human and divine
suffering, of discerning the differences between sin and
sadness; and of being willing to have our feet washed and
to wash the feet of others, as we begin to perceive more
and more what it means to be taken, blessed, broken given,
as Christ did with the bread and wine on the night he
died; as he himself did in his crucifixion and
resurrection; and as we the Church strive to do in order
that the mission of the God of love might be fulfilled;
that the world become Eucharist, and people God’s friends
who worship him and sit and eat with him. Amen.