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Jake

Perspective On Point 3

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Jake    4

Discuss Point 3 of the TCPC 8 Points...

"By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that we are Christians who understand the sharing of bread and wine in Jesus' name to be a representation of an ancient vision of God's feast for all peoples."

 

I am not sure about the terminology, “an ancient vision of God’s feast for all peoples”. It doesn’t really express my feelings on the Eucharist. I stand in two camps on the subject of celebrating the Eucharist, or Communion. I have been moved deeply while receiving the “host” in Episcopalian high church services. I am touched and have a sense of divine presence and solidarity with God, and the theatre of the church is at it’s dramatic best during the Eucharist. That being said, I do not accept the “body and blood” in a literal sense. I think the concept of transubstantiation is just gory, and I find the whole process a little disgusting.

I believe that meals with Jesus are just as important to the story as miracles with Jesus. The people he chose to eat with are reflective of his character and his radical message, when considered in historical and social context. When I approach it from this perspective, I find the idea of a feast to be much more appropriate a Christian message than the “body and blood” of the traditional Eucharist.

 

 

1. Imagine the people who Jesus invited to his table? Who do you think they were? What were their religious persuasions? Who might those people be today if Jesus were having a banquet?

 

The gospel writers have done a thorough job documenting the people Jesus broke bread with. He ate with the town rabble, the thugs, the outcasts, the unclean, and anyone else who was hungry. Imagine Jesus and his disciples showing up on your front step with a couple of prostitutes, some homeless people, and the guy from the car wash. He suggests you invite them in and cook a meal. In exchange, through the process of sharing the basic human necessity of food with your neighbors, you will come to know the presence of God. That is basically how it happened throughout the Gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell the same story of the scribes and Pharisees criticizing Jesus for eating with sinners and publicans.

It is worth considering the miracle of the five loaves and the two fish in the context of the Eucharist as well. This event is so significant that it appears in all four Gospels with similar detail. It does not matter if this event is interpreted literally or figuratively. The importance is in recognizing a shared and unifying experience in the early church, impressive enough to survive the early Biblical editing process intact from several sources. This shared experience centers around one source of food for the multitude, one source of sustenance for the young church, and for all of mankind, one ground and source of all being. As expressed in Point 2, we are all children of one God.

 

 

2. How can we best express an open table that includes all people in our respective churches?

 

In the PC context, I consider a soup kitchen, or a Wednesday night spaghetti dinner to be a better expression of an open table than the traditional Eucharist ritual, but I also believe there is room for both in the church. As I stated before, I feel a deep internal connection to the traditional, high church Eucharist. It is a very personal part of my faith, and one I am not likely to give up. I like that the above question pertains to “our respective churches”, and by doing so acknowledges that there are different forms of worship. Regardless of ritual or method of reflection, the table should be open to all in attendance who have come with love for God, and love for one another.

 

 

3. What guidelines or restrictions, if any, do you think there should be regarding those included at your communion table?

As I stated at the end of question 2, my communion table is open to all who come with love for God and love for one another. I would ask that none approach the table in anger, or with malice in their heart, or hatred for another person. My communion table represents the unifying source in all life. Communion, in any form of practice, should be an uplifting and beneficial practice, and never taken in a negative or condescending context.

I currently attend a Methodist Church that celebrates communion quarterly. All in attendance during the service are invited to participate, and hold in their heart any meaning behind the symbolism that they choose. I agree with this ideologically, although I much prefer the high church method of Eucharist in both practice and frequency, so I frequently attend daytime or early Sunday Eucharist services at an Episcopal Church as well. Out of respect for their tradition, I do not take communion at Catholic services. I made that error in protocol once and Father Thomas was very upset by my inadvertent heresy.

In spite of my progressive perspective on most of Christianity as practiced by mainline churches, there is something about that specific ritual that really moves me. That may be a bit paradoxical, but that is okay. I like to approach churches like food. I don’t have to eat meatloaf everyday. There is a great and diverse selection available for our culinary enjoyment. That approach tends to offend people who are fixated on denomination, and church membership numbers, and the culture of exclusivity that has cursed Christianity since the second century AD, but that is a topic for a whole different discussion.

 

 

4. Who, if anyone, do you believe should be excluded, or who do you wish would be excluded from the Lord’s Supper in your church?

 

I wish for everyone to be included in the Lord’s Supper. That is not to say that I wish for everyone to engage in the practice of a ritual Eucharist or Communion, or that I wish for everyone to sit down and dine together in the literal sense either. I wish for all of creation to share in the presence of God, and in the presence of one another as one compassionate and empathic resonance and the realization of creation becoming. I wish for all of us to vibrate or resonate on the same frequency. I wish for the actualization of the symphony of life, rather than the ruckus of a thousand dissonant chords, like souls out of tune with each other, and out of tune with God.

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Alan    1

Jake,

 

I am a lurker here, and have been for some time. I try to scan the new posts as readily as my busy schedule will allow. Unfortunately, I typically don't stop and post a comment when I read something I consider open and thought-provoking.

 

Your post, however, has truly moved me. Your thoughts regarding Point 3 are very similar to my own. I have always considered Communion to be one of the most beautiful and meaningful sacraments of Christianity. However, an event in my life changed my feelings towards Communion as practiced by the church I attended as a young man.

 

I was raised Missouri-Synod Lutheran. In that denomination, there is no open Communion. During my confirmation classes, my pastor explained to me that only those who understood the true meaning (aka the MS Lutheran accepted doctrine) of Communion are allowed to have Communion. This confused me, but being the impressionable youth that I was, I accepted his teachings.

 

My father passed away in 2000. At that time, I was not a regular church-goer. However, my brothers and their wives wanted to honor our mother by attending a church service the following Sunday after my father's funeral.

 

The pastor came to my Mother's home Saturday to make sure we were okay, and of course, make sure that we were attending church the next morning. He questioned my brother's wife about her religious up-bringing. She was raised Seventh Day Adventist. All I can say is that the pastor chose his words carefully. He essentially told her, in no uncertain terms, that she would not partake of Communion and that she should listen closely to his sermon.

 

My brother and his wife did not go to church that Sunday.

 

Neither did I.

 

I could not believe the negativity and outright elitism projected by that pastor! My Mother has forgiven me for not attending the service and, after numerous conversations with her, I feel she understands my feelings towards the church.

 

With all of that said, I want to pass on to you my support of your ideas regarding Communion and offer some ideas I've had regarding the body and blood of Christ.

 

What if we consider the bread, aka the body, to represent the 'substance' of our lives. That is, what if we look at it as representing all of the physical, hard-copy, stuff that we encounter and surround ourselves with on a daily basis. This would not only include our personal bodies, but also the tangible things around us including the trees, rocks, water, and other physical items of our existence.

 

Then, what if we consider the wine, aka the blood, to represent the 'fluid' of our lives. That would be our mental and spiritual aspects including our thoughts, ideas, emotions, dreams, and other non-physical aspects of our existence.

 

If we consider the body and blood to represent all of these things, then I see Jesus Christ as permeating all that we are and experience. The Last Supper is more meaningful to me because it is not a dour pretense to His death, but rather, a statement of his living everyday in our lives. His scriptual statements of "do this as often as you eat/drink of it in remembrance of Me" takes on a meaning that we should strive to see His teachings in in our everyday lives. Furthermore, I totally agree that Communion should be shared by all with the intent that we are coming together to celebrate the existence and our connection with the one true God.

 

Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts and inspiring me to offer my own.

 

Alan

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Jake    4

Alan, thank you for the response and comments. I appreciate the input and ideas concerning communion. It's a shame that some Christians cannot seem to see past their own dogmas. They make it difficult to embrace the label "Christian". We have probably driven as many people away from our way of life as we have encouraged through our own pride and exclusivity.

Thanks again, Alan.

 

-Jake

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