The summer before 6th grade I made a blood pact with my best friend. Okay okay… it wasn’t a pact made in blood. It was actually ketchup. Because blood…gross. But the sentiment was true enough.
We were best friends. We had the necklace that said best friend, two sides of a heart. I wore one side and she wore the other. We joked how we could be sisters. We wanted to be sisters. Flesh and blood.
So we made a blood pact…ketchup pact…to make it so. On a summer day, ketchup in my hand and ketchup in hers… squeezing our hands together tightly.
Nothing could separate us. We were like flesh and blood.
But the summer is long. And there was a good month that we didn’t see each other at all. A good month I didn’t call or write. And then family stuff came up. End of summer stuff came up. The perpetual drama that is the life of an 11 year old came up.
And it became the first day of school. My best friend was in my homeroom. I went to say hello. With a big smile. And she turned to look at me…and immediately I knew something had changed. I didn’t know it…. I felt it. In my gut.
She didn’t look at me. She looked through me. I wasn’t there. And this was abundantly clear.
I can remember the mixture of feelings swirling in my innards.
We were best friends!
We made a blood pact…okay okay…ketchup pact.
We were flesh and blood!
But all these statements were past tense. No longer alive.
I remember that day so strongly. Sitting in a classroom surrounded by fellow kids, but so alone. So isolated. So vulnerable.
The singer Sheryl Crow wisely sang that the first cut is the deepest.
And perhaps the cut this hurt made felt so deep, because it was the first time I felt disowned. Devalued. Not remembered. Promises made evaporated into nothing.
Promises. We make them….we make them all the time. From the legal ones we make with banks, credit companies to the relational ones we make with each other every day.
Some we’re pretty good at keeping…usually it’s the ones that promise “You’ll do this” or else…the or else may come with the clause that our car or our house is taken from us. Even those promises can be a struggle when things seem to fall apart. When the job didn’t come through, when the expense was more than we planned, when life seems to throw it’s worst at us.
But I find, personally, that I’m much worse at keeping those relational promises. Even when they’re really important, somehow the promises we make with loved ones, colleagues, and even ourselves seem to get tossed.
Can you think of a promise you made or a deal you cut that you let be broken? What was the consequence? Perhaps hurt feelings? Maybe a loss of trust? Or for some things, maybe even legal ramifications?
To be in relationship means that we make promises. We cut deals. We bind ourselves to each other. And to God.
In the story of faith, we have a long relationship with promise. And the important ones have always been with God. Actually with these important promises, God is always the initiator. And the really important ones had a special word attached to them. Covenant.
In fact, with these important pacts…these promises…these covenants…God would cut a deal with the people God so loves.
A sacrifice would be made.
Some kind of blood offering–usually of a clean animal.
Flesh and blood cut for a covenant after the flood and Noah sees a rainbow, when a covenant is made with Moses and the people of God through the commandments, when a covenant is made with King David about the promise of a ruler who would come from the house of David…whenever these covenants were made…they were cut with flesh and blood.
And God keeps God’s promises.
It’s we who don’t.
Read on in the story of Noah and he has a bad night with some bad wine and family promises deteriorate. Moses and the people of God have a falling out with that whole golden cow incident. And King David–you can say he messed up royally…and so did every king who followed.
Often God would send a prophet to remind us of the promises we made.
The deals we cut.
And so often we would bark back that we didn’t want to remember the promise. Or we would pretend that God simply wasn’t there.
And in the end we were just hurting ourselves.
Forgetting who we are.
And isolating ourselves from God who deeply, desires a good and holy relationship with us.
And that’s when God made a blood pact with us. An unbreakable promise. Because God cut a deal using his own flesh and blood. Jesus Christ.
This is why when we take communion we hear the words shared by Jesus to his disciples. “This cup is the new covenant shed in my blood for you and for all.”
It’s why we hear Jesus in our Gospel urging us to take his flesh and blood.
A new covenant cut between God and us. A new covenant…A promise that can’t be broken. No matter how many times we neglect to call on God, we walk away, pretend God is not there, or simply forget the promises we’ve made!
And in the mystery that is communion, when we take in the flesh and blood of Jesus, we make a blood pact…become brothers and sisters to Christ. And have Christ in our very bodies…in our guts. In our hearts. In our heads. In our decisions. In our play. In our strength.
Flesh and blood. That’s what we’re made in communion.
Flesh and blood of God.
Flesh and blood of Jesus Christ.
Flesh and blood to each other.
Flesh and blood that binds me to you, and you to the person in front of you, to a friend across the street, to one who is receiving communion a halfway across the country or across the globe.
Flesh and blood.
“This cup is the new covenant shed in my blood for you and for all for the forgiveness of sin.”
Flesh and blood that gives us new hope, new chances.
Flesh and blood that reminds us that when best friends or family or jobs let us down, we have a God who lifts us up.
Flesh and blood that teaches us what a promise kept can look like.
Flesh and blood that when our days can seem lifeless, fills us with life eternal.
Flesh and blood. “Do this in the remembrance of me.”
It is in Jesus’ flesh and blood that we not only remember who he is, but through him, remember who we are–God’s own.
Loved, Connected, Valued, Remembered.
Flesh and blood filling us and inspiring us to be Christ to our best friends, to our families, to our colleagues, to the world.
Blood brothers and sisters in Christ, I pray that you may be filled with the love and hope that God has for you. For God desires to fill you with new life now and always.
And that’s a promise. Amen