No Mere Handshake

As we approach the first Sunday of April, many of my fellow Baptist and non-denominational friends will participate in our monthly remembrance of the Lord’s Supper. Mark Galli offers a vivid picture, especially relevant on the heels of MLB opening week.

For those who saw the photo taken in May of 2006, it was an unremarkable picture of one baseball player shaking the hands of another from an opposing team. But for those who knew the story behind the handshake, that moment contained a world of meaning.

A few days earlier, A.J. Pierzynski of the Chicago White Sox had barreled over Michael Barrett of the cross-town rival, Cubs, in a close play at the plate. It was a “clean play” by baseball standards, but Barrett and Pierzynski still exchanged words, as competitive athletes are wont to to. Then Barrett threw a right hook that landed on Pierzynski’s jaw, something professional baseball players are decidedly not supposed to do.

That led the batter in the on-deck circle to tackle Barrett, which led Cubs players to jump on both of them, trying to pull them apart. Both benches emptied and it was a free-for-all for about fifteen minutes before the umpire regained control of the situation. Four players were immediately ejected from the game, and punishments from the league office soon followed.

The handshake a few days later, then, was no mere handshake. The handshake conveyed a story––with characters, conflict and reconciliation. And every time Pierzynski and Barrett shake hands in the years to come, they will in some sense re-live, re-present, that drama and that reconciliation.

The liturgy contains a similar “handshake” at its climax, an outward action that conveys a deeper drama. To some, this moment looks like routine ritual, like that handshake might have looked to those who had not heard what happened a few days earlier. But those with eyes of faith see a mystery opening before them in the liturgy.”

(Mark Galli, Beyond Smells & Bells: The Wonder and Power of Christian Liturgy. 2008)

So as we come to the communion table this weekend, we find an opportunity to re-live and re-present the drama and reconciliation of an offense infinitely more serious than a bullpen brawl. Our conflict was not a peer fight, but High Treason.

Unlike Pierzynski and Barrett, we do not come to this table to reconcile as equals, rather we feast on the body and blood of the One who condescended to reconcile us in our trespasses.

We do not come on our own to this communion table, rather this fellowship feast has come to us. For while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

May we participate in the drama this weekend as we receive the pierced right hand of God’s fellowship extended to us. We remember our story, and taste and see that this is no mere handshake.


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