Wednesday, November 4

The greater danger...

SOME pastors try to keep the "ritual" surrounding the Lord's Supper to a bare minimum -- lest it become rote and impersonal. Now, as I see it, perhaps that was a problem in a by-gone era (perhaps...) but the greater danger in 2009 is that the Lord's Supper can become so simplified and so personalized (" is the time to really think about your relationship with Jesus...") that we've lost all sense of last supperconnection to the broader more mysterious salvation narrative. We now commonly see Holy Communion as merely another personal faith enhancement.

As pastors we've become so afraid of boring people with the details that we hardly ever rehearse the broader narrative that walks through creation, fall, exodus, prophets, the cross, the resurrection... (We so underestimate what people can handle!) And then we act upset because nobody knows the biblical story anymore ("They must not be reading their Bibles like they used to..."). Each person thinks of "the communion experience" and salvation as merely an extension of his or her own story -- rather than as a participation in a bigger story.

It's our own fault. We've brought this on ourselves with our casual creed-less truncated mystery-free sacraments.

So, we can continue to whine about how individualistic and consumer-oriented our people are -- or we can do something to help them enter into the story that includes them but which is bigger than them. The question is, do we have the ecclesiastical guts to move in this direction?


Marc Vandersluys said...

Interesting that you mention this today. I was discussing with one of my classmates how unfortunately devoid of depth, richness and beauty low church communion is. I said this after a class with a (soon-to-be) ordained Anglican professor, whom regularly refers back to the Eucharist in theological terms. It's a shame ("but don't become an Anglican," he insists, "Work for renewal from within your tradition!").

On the bright side, the Covenant Affirmations (as I recall) recognize the mystery of the Eucharist (rather than it being just symbolic), so there's hope for change!

Beth B said...

You go, brother Brad!

May I ask, what brought this on? : )

Tom said...

I'm very much with you on this. We take a low view of communion for the most part. In some very real sense, Christ is present in the bread and wine. This should also be a way for us to step into communion with our brothers and sisters that are alive now and those that have passed on.

When I take communion, I like to think I am standing in the presence of God along with all the saints standing around His thrown and for that moment we are one! All together again and the friends and love ones that I have lost are with me again. Other Christians around the world are standing there facing the thrown of God together. In a very real sense, we are a comminity of believers. One.

Ann said...

communion, community, covenant, church ...

It's amazing how easy it can be to ignore the collective in the nouns, and to neglect the import of the verses around 1 Cor. 11:23-26, so frequently used in our services.

We are the Body of Christ and we participate in receiving the Body of Christ. Such mystery!

Beth B said...

I'm sure there are folks who chafe whenever Steve offers them the Elements, saying "This is my Body which is broken for you..." and "This is my Blood which was shed for you..." but I don't. It forces me to focus on the sacrament, rather than myself.

I always love being able to pray, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed," and later, together with the entire congregation, to affirm the mystery of faith: "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again." The movement from self to body to Body is a precious part of worship.

However, I'm almost certain that whoever comes after Steve will not continue this practice at VCC. Most of the people who are into liturgy at VCC are twenty-somethings, and they will be moving on to Portland and beyond once they finish their schooling, or when they finally realize there are few jobs that will support a family for them here in Oregon.

Liturgy can be so valuable--it can be a means of combatting individualism and consumerism. But the point of being a free church is to allow for individualism and freedom in the Spirit. But at what point does such freedom work against our union with Christ, individually and corporately?