By Marsha Relyea Miles
If you were to worship with tribal Jesus followers in the jungle of Papua New Guinea, you might find yourself sitting on a rough-hewn log rather than a comfortable pew or chair. The typical church building has a thatched roof, woven bamboo walls, a dirt floor, and “windows” that are open to the jungle (no glass or screen); the church is graced with calls of tropical birds and shaded by giant palms and lush foliage.
Imagine this setting . . . the sultry, equatorial breeze wafts in, carrying with it the sweetness of exquisite rainforest flowers. Most people have no shoes. Most children wear very few clothes. The earnestness of their worship songs rises as a fragrant offering to God.
When the time for Communion arrives, the people talk about Jesus’ sacrifice, his broken body. They remind themselves that, “We are his body.” We are to “discern,” or think about, his body—each other—as we partake.
Their “bread” is a roast yam that is passed on a banana leaf. (Yams are a staple of their diet.) Each person breaks off a small piece as it is passed. They pass their “wine,” which is green coconut milk, in a simple, single bamboo cup. (They have never seen grapes.)
As they start to share the emblems, one woman stands, walks over to another woman, and asks forgiveness for a wrong between them. They embrace and weep together as they partake, seriously “discerning the body” of Christ.
This table of our Lord is indeed expansive. It stretches around the globe, through every time zone, uniting believers everywhere. As we partake at the Lord’s table today, may we truly “discern” his global body, of which we are a part. This Thanksgiving feast is truly a foreshadowing of the ultimate feast of the Lamb, where people from every tribe, tongue, and nation will gather to celebrate face-to-face with Jesus!
Marsha Relyea Miles is a missionary with Pioneer Bible Translators who serves in Papua New Guinea.