Beth and I spent a little time studying and discussing the eucharist (communion? I don’t know) this weekend, so naturally that part of today’s chapters felt highlighted to me. I’m still thinking it over, mostly about how much I misunderstand it or make it obsolete.
Communion is often served towards the end of church, and at the church service I attended, we ‘took’ it every week. Very seldom did I feel connected to the ritual, distracted as I waited in line with other church attendants to ‘receive the elements’. I was often hungry and imagining what my lunch would soon be, or wrangling a squirmy kid in my arms or trying to hyper-spiritualize the sermon I just heard. At one point, I took on the role of preparing the communion table before each church service and soon it was hard to see it as anything other than the store-bought bread I quickly tore into pieces and the processed grape juice I sloshed out of a plastic jug. Most times at the table, I tried really hard to engage. Confess my sins? Acknowledge the cross? Stay seated in my chair if I have any remote unreconciled things in my life? Am I doing this right?
Rohr reflected on how the church often approaches communion as a ceremony instead of the ritual it was intended to be. The former is more of a religious event and the latter is a participation; you’re engaging in the action. I can’t say this cleared things up for me once and for all, actually, it introduced even more confusion. But I’ve enjoyed mulling it over the past couple days, and invite you to do the same.
Paul makes this sticky piece of tape even stickier for me:
“So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died. But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way. Yet when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned along with the world.” 11:17-33
What’s clear (in my muddy theology) is that we shouldn’t do anything robotically for God. He doesn’t want us to perform religious ceremonies for him, he wants us to engage in meaningful rituals with a sincere heart. Who can approach the communion table with true innocence? No one. But we are all welcome to come, acknowledge where we stand with God and take part in what Christ’s offers us.
It’s hard to examine yourself. Your life, tendencies, relationships, storage closets and habits all contain mess, and the more you start to unpack it, the more you find. We often turn up any noise as loud as we can to avoid self-reflection. Of course, the Bible calls us to something quite counter-cultural. Being still. Quieting our hearts. And reflecting.
So, come to the table and have a look. You are not alone; Jesus is sitting down for the meal as well.