My Story of the Broken Chalice

Let me share with you my experience of communion with a broken chalice. First, consider these passages:

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” – Psalm 46:4-5

“Indeed, of Zion it will be said, ‘This one and that one were born in her, and the Most High himself will establish her.’ The Lord will write in the register of peoples: ‘This one was born in Zion.’ As they make music they will sing, ‘All my fountains are in You.’” –Psalm 87:5-7

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the street of the great city.” –Revelation 22:1-2b

My Story of the Broken Chalice

Some years ago I was leading a communion service at a conference in one of my breakout classes. I had set up a makeshift altar complete with a little white votive, a saucer for the bread, and a clay chalice that my wife and I had purchased in St. John on a vacation many years ago for the grape juice. I loved that chalice. It was hand-thrown pottery, a sandy color with ocean blue mixed in, and it had a couple of ornamental seashells on the body of the cup. It had sat on one of our shelves at home for years until I snagged it for the conference.

A few minutes before the class, I needed to move the table over a foot or two to make room for some more chairs. As I was picking up the small table, the chalice tipped over and fell to the floor, spilling the juice and shattering the pottery. It broke into a lot of small pieces, but there were enough large pieces left that I could glue back together that it would at least stand up on its own and to resemble a little of its former glory. It now sits on the same shelf at home to remind me never to take anything I’m unwilling to break to a conference.

Many of our churches and perhaps many of us are like that broken chalice. Maybe we were whole and full at one time, but something has happened to tip the table and to not only spill the wine but also shatter the cup. The body of Christ, in essence, is the chalice through which God pours His glory into the earth. The Gospel is a call to intimate Communion with God, but that call comes through believers and through our faith communities. If we are broken and dysfunctional, especially in the area of our love to God in worship and in our understanding of the very essence of worship via the presence of Christ, how will the wine of His great love flow to all the nations?

The chalice has been broken by many things, but mostly by our vast penchant to satisfy ourselves in everything, including religion. The utterly (and seemingly hopeless) narcissism that pervades our congregations isn’t their entire fault, really, but our own as pastors and leaders. We have pandered to preferences for profit. We have squandered authentic presence in worship, God’s, in exchange for the presence of people. We have, as Eugene Petersen so aptly translates the passage from Romans 1, “traded the glory of God for trinkets you can buy at any roadside stand.

How Can the Broken Chalice Become Whole?

How will the chalice be whole? Is there supernatural super glue that could fix the shattered pieces of our lives and the lives of our faith communities? Of course there is. Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord. The answer is always God Himself, and this time, it is in the form of His Spirit. We have become Spirit-less people and a Spirit-less church, for the most part, desiring commercialized mega-results and packed out pews by the power of the flesh, substituting what we can do for what only He can do. But the chalice is mended perfectly, as if never broken, only by the presence and power of God’s Spirit.

As Tozer has said, “When the Holy Spirit ceases to be incidental and again becomes fundamental, the power of the Spirit will be asserted once more among the people called Christians.” (The Divine Conquest, p. 66) What should be fundamental to our faith experience has been lost to argument and division over mere expressions of spiritual gifts while every drop of real spiritual power, like the holy wine, has drained from the cup.

Our individual lives should be overflowing in the Christ’s Spirit and all aspects of corporate worship – preaching, creative arts, even offering – should be Spirit-charged activities. No gathering of believers in Jesus Christ should be without a palpable sense of His presence by His Spirit. Alongside gross insensitivity to Him, to Jesus as the Spirit, I mean, is an anti-Spirit sentiment based on ignorance and abuse. Pride for “not being like that church down the street” calls us out as Publicans and impoverishes the mystical experience of authentic communion in the Spirit. Fear of becoming “charismatic” has log-jammed all creativity and the free flow of any spiritual dimension in our services, a reductionist standpoint that wants spiritual results without the Spirit’s help. Our self-reliance has X’ed God out of the equation, and we proceed under our own power, hoping for results we can never achieve, in other words, a transformed life.

The bread and the cup are eternal symbols for Christians. The call to the table of Christ is central to our faith and to the Gospel itself—Jesus calls all who will come to His banqueting table. Who are we to break His cup? How can we abide the disintegration of authentic worship, the erosion of real worship over pettiness and ingratitude? How can we continue to ignore a fully integrated part of the Godhead in the form of His Spirit? My heart burns to see authentically spiritual worship restored, a joyous worship and an exultant praise that transcends all styles, preferences, and generations—from the broken chalice to the mended chalice, whole, filled to overflowing, and lifted to our Great Father in highest adoration.

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johnchisum@churchleaders.com'
An ordained minister, Integrity Music worship artist, music publisher, author, producer and seasoned songwriter, John has used his broad talents to develop a unique catalog of work for Star Song Communications, Integrity Music and for Firm Foundation Worship Ministries. He is the author of dozens of articles in the field of worship leadership published by IntegrityMusic.com, Crosswalk.com, Praisecharts.com, and his own Worship4Life.org.