Editor’s note: On this Maundy Thursday we remember Jesus first sharing the bread of life and cup of salvation with his disciples before his crucifixion. A version of this reflection first appeared in the April 1996 issue of Lutheran Woman Today (now Gather) magazine.
The pastor, the organist, 18 worshipers, and one butterfly were in the nave that hot August morning in Cologne, Germany. The windows of the church did not open, and everyone was warm. On the next day the world would solemnly mark the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Worship that morning included many references to World War II and to the peace that Christ brings to the world.
My now-rusty high school German got me through the liturgy and the hymns, but I couldn’t understand all of the pastor’s sermon. That, combined with the heat and the length of the sermon, led my mind to wander. My eyes caught sight of a butterfly fluttering about the altar and the cross. I followed its flight as it gracefully moved about the chancel.
When the sermon ended, the hymn of the day began with a cataclysmic chord that hung in the near-empty nave. That chord, symbolizing the bombing of Hiroshima, called up images of death and destruction. The liturgy continued, and soon the small group of worshipers gathered in a semi-circle for the Eucharist, with the bread and wine on the table before us.
As the pastor said the words of institution, the butterfly caught my attention once again. It was near a stained-glass window, high in the nave. Brilliant sunlight shone in, and the butterfly was straining toward the light, looking for the freedom of the outdoors.
I was brought back to the bread and the cup we were about to share. As I ate the bread and drank the wine, I thought with joy that here was the freedom I straining for; the gift of Christ found in the Eucharist. I need look no further.
Linda Post Bushkofsky is the executive director of Women of the ELCA.