McCommunion. And Community. And Hoping for a Blessing Without the Messed Up Hip.

OK.  Let’s just name the elephant in the room, before we even get started.

Communion?  It’s pretty wierd.

For now, though, I am just going to leave it there: admitting it’s weird.  But also… wanting to add something.

Communion?  It’s pretty amazing.

And right now, I am wrestling with God about this thing, communion.  It means so much, almost everything.  And therefore, it means so much, almost too much.  It is not enough to say that there is this huge, radical spectrum of experiences that are covered by this idea: communion.  At the bare minimum, there are three distinct extremes.  I don’t care that it’s nonsense to say that there are three extremes to a thing.  It doesn’t make it less true.

The default communion experience for me is this: Somebody used to pour out a hundred or more little cups of grape juice.  They sat, precariously, in these copper plates with these little holes for the little cups.  A matching plate chased this one, passed down the rows.  It had broken up matza cracker.

And then, there is this left turn, to the far end of the  experience, to a vertex of the triangle.

My life was beginning to fall apart shortly after I became a Christian.  (I am kind of proud of that sentence right there.) I made myself space and time to simply be with my struggles and my pain.   I created this sort-of retreat for myself.  I left behind my worldly responsibilities.  And I took this long journey up a mountain.

Actually, that last sentence was a lie.  I drove down the street to my dad’s.  But the rest was true.

Echoing in my head, perhaps from a recently-heard sermon, was the idea that communion can be anywhere, with anything.

At lunch time, I raided the old man’s refridgerator.  Cold cuts on bread.  I had a cold, so I microwaved myself tea.  Lemon was the most interesting offering in his little tea-basket.  I decided that this lunch was communion.  I took the sandwich, his body.  And the tea, not-a-wine, his blood.

I had made the tea by his microwave.  I was not familiar with it.  I ended with a mug full of bathwater-warm; almost hot, just above body-temperature sort-of lemon flavored water.  I thought about his blood before it came into my mouth.

This barely sour, warm-but-not-hot water…  it knocked me on my ass.  It could not have felt more like blood if it had been.

I sat there, by myself, in this improvised ceromony.   Perhaps it was something about how primal our sense of taste is.  But I was just wrecked by the whole thing, the human condition, the role of Jesus.

And then, there is an extreme.  I want to be careful about how I express this next part.  I am not sure I am against it yet.  (But to be truthful, I am getting there.)

And then, this other extreme:

During Sunday services, recently, they have begun to pass out these pre-sealed little shot glasses.  Inside, of course, sits grape juice.  Sealed in the top?  a wafer.  It feels a bit like a paper towel in my mouth.  This prepackaged thing: it serves a purpose.  Nonetheless, in my snarky moments, I want to call it “McCommunion.prefilled_communion_cups_with_wafers_123

I know that somewhere, there is a roaring assembly line.  A seemingly endless trail of these things being filled up, packaged, and sent off.  And a part of me finds this absurd.

And yet…  it is amazing.  It is amazing for the scale of it, thousands and millions of people all able to encounted the living Christ through this.  The sheer scale is kind-of awesome.  But also the idea that the resseructed Jesus dwells here.

The third point of this triangle:

Times with good friends, times recognizing God’s providence.  Thinking about how Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”  Did he mean that we ought to turn his object lesson into a ritual?  Or did he mean that we ought to gather together, celebrate together, in remembrance of him.  Communion.  Community.

These three portaits.  They are a microcosm for me, right now.  They are representations of this wrestling match that God and I are doing.  It is not only about communion.  These represent to me, little snap shots of the church itself.  What we are meant to be.

I don’t know where it’s going.  I only just barely get where I’ve been.  If you’re keeping score, I am pretty sure he is winning.

I wonder if you can get a blessing out of these things with out getting an injury, too.

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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