Our online book study of Rachel Held Evans' Searching for Sunday continues with a reflection from parishioner David Thomas. For next week, read section five: Confirmation.
Each week, one new entry by someone connected to the St. James’s community will post to this blog on Wednesday morning covering one section of the book. Please enter your email address to the right to receive these posts in your email inbox. Use the comment section to answer the discussion questions, and share these posts with your friends!
Rachel Held Evans in her search for meaning on Sunday morning, has experienced almost all of the Christian sects or approaches to the worship of Christ. This, I believe, allows her to ground her faith in the Way of Jesus and not be tied to a particular ritual or way of worship. An Episcopalian might say that her faith is centered on the Bible, not on the Book of Common Prayer. (Horrors.) This freedom from ritual allows her to experience the Sacraments – the specific ways that the Church puts us in contact with the Devine – both within and outside of traditional church settings. Her treatment of Communion is no different.
She recalls the early Christian community’s agape meals where Jesus was “remembered with food, stories, laughter, tears, debate, discussion, and cleanup.” “…the focus of these early communion services was not on Jesus’ death, but rather on Jesus’ friendship, his presence made palpable among his followers by the tastes, sounds, and smells he loved.” Rachel references Barbara Brown Taylor who points out that Jesus “did not give them something to think about together when he was gone. Instead he gave them concrete things to do….’Do this’ he said – not believe this but do this – ‘in remembrance of me’”
Like Luke’s story of the travelers to Emmaus, people see Jesus not only at the altar, but when they sit down together to eat. St. Lydia’s in New York City sponsors Sunday and Monday night simple meals, with prayers and discussion that fill a broad cross-section of people with not only food for their stomachs but food for their souls. The sacrament of communion not as a wafer and dip of wine, but in the form of fresh baked bread, the fellowship of a meal, and a glass of wine over which a thanksgiving has been prayed. While I understand the practicality of our Sunday feeding of the wafer and dip of wine, I remember achingly how spiritually fulfilling the rare agape meal has been for me.
Whether in a sanctuary, a dining room, or through a casserole delivered at a time of crisis, we are fed Christ’s body broken for us and his blood poured out for us. By “we” Rachel means everyone – rich, poor, scented or stinky, people like us or so very different. All one has to do is kneel down and open one’s hands, in reality or figuratively, let go of the ego and let the love of God flow into us and fill us. For Rachel, it is “Enough, always enough.”
Lastly, Rachel says that she doesn’t “know exactly how Jesus is present in the bread and wine”, but she believes “Jesus is present…” No theological treatise here. Just the sure knowledge that Jesus is present and that you have been Divinely fed. Jesus is so present here that Rachel thinks it “counterintuitive to tell people they have to wait and meet him someplace else before they meet him at the table.” She would love Saint James’s and its table, open to all.
For myself, Communion is often a bit of a roller-coaster. When I break the wafer in my mouth, I can only think of the myriad ways that I break His body. Then the wine comes, and the overwhelming guilt disappears. I have a fresh start. I am free to show Him anew how much I love Him.
Question for Discussion:
What does taking Communion mean for you, and how has your understanding changed throughout your life?