By Derek Maul
This past week Rebekah and I visited two tiny churches in West Jefferson, N.C. St. Mary’s and Holy Trinity house five significant frescoes. But it was artist Ben Long’s interpretation of The Last Supper that moved me. The recorded message presented the following observation about the disciples: “No longer what they were; not yet what they shall be…”
The idea took root in my soul, churned around a little, then emerged like this: After we share the bread and the wine with our sisters and brothers, receiving Jesus with wide open spirits, we are no longer the same – we can’t be; yet we are still works in progress, we are still in a state of becoming, we are still being transformed, we are still growing into the fullness that God intends.
No longer what we were; not yet what we shall be.
The fresco technique involves applying pigmentation to the plaster while it is still wet. In consequence, and as the chemical processes take effect, the picture is not on the surface of the wall so much as in the wall. A fresco actually becomes a part of the structure where it is applied.
Because of Jesus, the disciples were no longer the same people they had once been. But in that moment, the disciples were also on the threshold of the great new post-resurrection adventure.
As we sat in the small mountain church, looking at the fresco on the wall behind the communion table, I understood that communion must always challenge me in that way; that – because of Jesus – I can never be the same again, and no matter how far I think I’ve come, I am not yet the man I can be.
In fact, my experience of Jesus cannot – must not – simply be an image that is applied on me, something limited to the surface; instead the experience of communion must – like the pigmentation in the fresco – be a part of who it is that I am, and the new creation I am becoming.