Thursday, March 29, 2007

living out the truth of Eucharist/communion

Susan Arnold has an interesting post from John Howard Yoder's book, Body Politics: Five Practices of the Christian Community Before the Watching World (and a good review of its contents along with her thoughts). After posting on living out the truth of our baptism yesterday, I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look at this today.

The Church's view of Eucharist/communion/the Lord's Table has, like much of our understanding of the gospels and Scripture, been affected by worldviews and philosophy (not to say there exists an objective reading of Scripture, for all reading is inherently subjective). Medieval thinking (as N.T. Wright points out as well) (arguably, I say) impacted the Church's view of Eucharist. And reformations of it either still held on to a significant part of it (like the private, individual affair going on between the individual and God in what happens at "communion"), or were in part, reactionary, so as to lose some of the good that did exist before in Church practice.

I like what Yoder is getting at and how he sought to recover what I think is a good and proper Scriptural view of the sacramental aspect of communion. I especially like his emphasis on the truth that we're to be doing this together. We see this clearly from the start when Jesus had the last supper with his disciples and told them to do this in remembrance of him. They were eating together. This was practiced clearly as a meal in the early church. We see it was abused at Corinth, but it surely was not to be abandoned as meal, as the church has done.

It is something we do together, a communion (koinonia; 1 Corinthians 10:16), participation and sharing in the blood and body of Christ. We are in this together and together we're one body (1 Corinthians 10:17).

As Susan points out, we need to make communion something we do, not only in the same room but together. And a meal would be especially good, being more in accord with Scripture and facilitating the communion that God wants his people to experience with each other in Christ.

In and from that we live as Christ's Body in the world, each one doing their part as one in Christ to bring his redemptive work of love that has made us one in him, to a world in need of him and of this love.

I barely touch on this. From Susan's posts or from here, what thoughts come to mind that you'd like to share with us? Or questions and other perspectives?


L.L. Barkat said...

I like the thought that when I take communion, I take in the body of Christ. He and I are "together" then. But that means being together in all things... in pain, in sacrifice, in joy and healing, everything. Sometimes this feels frightening, and sometimes it feels like sweet nourishment to my soul.

Rachel Starr Thomson said...

I think we also miss much of communion's link to Passover. The first Passover was eaten as the angel of death passed over the doors, and when I take communion now it awes me to think that, in the same way, death has passed over me.

Thanks for your comments on my blog! You called it a "blessing" that I can work with words all day... it is! I don't take it for granted, but literally thank God for it several times every day.

As to reading what you don't "click" with... I make myself do it, to acquire better language and understanding skills. Often I find myself gaining an appreciation. But I also have a lot more flexibility in my time, as an unmarried young person. I doubt I would do it so much if I was in a different station of life.

Thanks again for the conversation!
Little Dozen Press

Rachel Starr Thomson said...

Another quick comment on reading widely... I am amazed at how many places I find God in books. Not just in Christian books, but in novels, poetry, science, history... all over the place. Every time it hammers home to me how REAL God really is. It's awesome, and I mean that word as it should be taken :).

Ted Gossard said...

L.L., Great thought. Your sharing this here in community. Though it is intensely private in nature, in one way, it should go beyond that to affect our communion with other Christians. Thanks!

Ted Gossard said...

Rachel, Great thought on Passover, and you're surely right!

I'm blessed to be meeting writers like you and L.L. and others. And it's great that you publish as well as write. Thanks for your thoughts on reading. You're right. You do have alot more time now than you'll have then. A great season for you, though.

Your last comment reminds me of the first section of N.T. Wright's book, "Simply Christian". In that he speaks of a voice that moves them to posit something more than they know, but is hinted at in longings (for justice, spirituality, relationships, beauty). A good read. Thanks for sharing that! Interesting.

Susan said...

Thanks for the link, Ted. It would be hard to "reconfigure" most of our church gatherings to stop and have a meal on Sunday morning so that we could share in the Lord's Table the "original" way... but if a church wants to "have communion" on Sunday, there are definitely ways to make it more of a sharing in common, for instance one church I attended for a while broke up into smaller groups after going up to get their bread and wine, and then ate and drank together in the small group. There was also an expectation that during this time people could go to one another and take care of any reconciling "business" that needed to go on between individuals, and keep short accounts therefore. I really liked that way of doing things, though the best, I believe, is to commune together over a meal in home-group fellowships and leave "Eucharist" out of the larger Sunday worship gathering all together, because in that setting it tends to become a rite more than anything else. I love the larger gathering of worship on Sundays, for celebration and hearing the Word -- but I think it's in the smaller group that more intimate body-life takes place.

Ted Gossard said...

Susan, Thanks for your thoughts here and for the postings.

I like the idea of having "communion" in smaller gatherings. And homegroup seems ideal for that. It should be an intimate time together in remembering the Lord, and over a meal. I think this is a special time that is very human and should be an enjoyable time in fellowship/communion together in our Lord.

You're right. Intimate Body life happens in a smaller group, not much at large gatherings, unless it happens to be between those who practice it in smaller settings, in a limited way.

Ted Gossard said...

I meant, and it's limited in larger gatherings (usually). Though we do have times to visit and in our case do connect a little more, being a smaller fellowship.