If I say the word communion, what images are called up?
A large table, covered with a fancy tablecloth, laden with stacked silver servers? A facing pew filled with somber looking men in black suits? All quiet and religious, except for the low droning of organ music?
When I was no more than three or four I wanted a taste of the juice from one of those little glass cups that passed over my head between my mom and dad during Lord’s Supper. I fussed and whined, thinking I was the only person in that room missing out. When the tray of tiny crackers made its way to our row, I was beside myself. Dad told me to wait till after the service and he’d fetch me my own cracker and juice. Mom cut me a glare and I straightened up. I’m not sure if it was the look I got or the promise of a snack after church that settled me most. Six of one, I’d wager. Then again, you never were on the receiving end of my mom’s fiery eyeballs.
Be that as it may, I still feel from time to time that I’m missing out. Most of the churches from my tradition exercise only a quarterly observance of the Lord’s Table, so I’m pretty sure my bereftness (if that’s a word) started there. And then the rote words I grew up with from pastors and church officials indicating what that next fifteen minutes was about left me hanging. I tend to think there are deeper levels of meaning in most anything I engage in, so it may just be me being me, over-complicating a genuinely simple procedure.
Ah! But see there? That’s just it, it’s not a procedure. I’ll allow for ‘a sacrament’ because I love the loftiness of the word and because sacramental means it’s a receptacle for divine graces. Lord knows we need more of that!
[Much – MUCH! – more than once every four or six weeks to be quite honest.]
I started to get the idea for this post from one of the books I’m reading that you’ll find in the right margin of this page, near the bottom (or near the bottom of this page if you’re using an iPhone). I’m playing off the words of James K. A. Smith in his book, “You Are What You Love” as I compose my post…and I was horrified by the clearest evidence of my own ‘missing something’… of my own making! In my edits, I was looking for the categories to tag this post so I breezily sauntered my way through my long list of entries, getting ready to click on the one that said “communion” or “Lord’s Supper” and, to my shameful aggrandizement there were, lo and behold, no categories to affix.
Shame shame shame.
Well I’ve fixed that now, rest assured.
This meal means something! It’s not simply a memorial meal, though it is tied most empirically to the redemptive work of Christ (and that should be the draw of the table henceforth and forevermore), but there is also an ongoing and effectual attraction that underscores “till He comes” for the body that joins itself to Christ and “it” annnnd “one another” in the doing.
I like how James Smith engages me with his prose and helps set my needle closer to its true north as I mull through this demonstrably quest-sized matter (I don’t dare reduce it to ‘issue’) and consider how I might find more of Him at the Table of Content(ment):
“We are invited to sit down for supper with the Creator of the universe, to dine with the King. But we are all invited to do so, which means we need to be reconciled to one another as well… there are no box seats at this table, no reservations for VIPs, no filet mignon for those who can afford it while the rest eat crumbs from their table. The Lord’s Table is a leveling reality in a world of increasing inequalities, an enacted vision of, ‘A feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine’ (Isaiah 25:6). In this communion our hearts are drawn into the very heart of God’s Triune life. Thus, in some ways the fulcrum of the liturgy is the sursum corda: ‘Lift up your hearts.’ In worship ‘we lift them up to the Lord.’ The Lord’s Supper isn’t just a way to remember something that was accomplished in the past; it is a feast that nourishes our hearts. Here is an existential meal that retrains our deepest, most human hungers.”1
That’s quite good, isn’t it?
I’m not attempting to solve anything here today, or exhaust the possibilities (as if we ever could). I’m just getting the conversation started.
I’m wondering what the Lord might be showing YOU about this “existential meal” and how you and your fellowship practice it in such a way as to downplay the ritualness (again, not a word?) of it and instead find richness in it. ‘Cause, again, I just don’t want to miss out – not when there’s food and juice involved!
1 James K. A. Smith, “You Are What You Love”, p98.