Thursday, August 21, 2014

Eating together...



As followers of Jesus, we too often forget the core of our founder's teachings: that we are called into community with each other, and in community with each other we are challenged to accept communion with God through the witness of the Christ. That's a bit flowery, and perhaps is more effectively summed up by this excerpt from the rite of Holy Communion found in the Book of Common Prayer,when the priest having said the words of institution (when Jesus commanded us to take, eat/drink and remember):

Sanctify [this bread and wine] by your Holy Spirit to be for your people the Body and Blood of your Son, the holy food and drink of new and unending life in him. Sanctify us also that we may faithfully receive this holy Sacrament, and serve you in unity, constancy and peace; and at the last day bring us with all your saints into the joy of your eternal kingdom. (BCP, p. 363)
In this portion of the prayer, we are reminded that if we are to "walk the talk" of communion, then we have to be willing to take on two life-changing disciplines. First, we have to be willing to allow God, literally, into our bodies. Communion is just that, making one things that were once disparate elements. God, through communion, is in us and we are in God through Christ. Second, that we are not alone in that undertaking, and in fact we are united with those that we are sharing communion with, and with those who have shared communion with others through time and space. We are one, united out of time and space, in Christ, having shared in this simple meal, this simple sacrifice to God, of bread and wine...the Body and Blood of Jesus.

The sad thing is that we as Christians too often forget that we don't just eat to satisfy our physical hunger in this life as people of faith. We also eat together in order to remind ourselves that life is not a solo flight taken in isolation. Meals are meant to be shared, they are the heart of the home, the family, the community. Even without Holy Communion, the communal act of eating together reminds us that we are all human and that we are not ever so different from each other in that we all need to eat in order to survive physically...and we need company if we are to survive spiritually.

Every Wednesday, when my schedule permits, I am at my parish church. We have a community supper that, at least officially is a soup kitchen, but whose primary vision is to not only provide supper but also community. When I enter, I come through our kitchen door and greet the volunteers who will be serving the meal. Their joy in serving others reminds me to give thanks for people who offer their free time so that others might eat and for a moment enjoy the luxury of being served. I then walk through the passage where our serving volunteers gather, usually younger teens, and thank them as well. They have given their time, as well, so that others are served.

Finally, I come to the Hall....a place that must look a lot like what Jesus intended the Kingdom to look like. It's not an "ideal" gathering. Rather, it is a REAL gathering. There are folks here who are hungry and will be eating their first meal of the day. There are folks here who are lonely, and this is their only chance to get out and be with people instead of being home alone. There are people here who are tired, as they work long days and this is their only chance to see family without the pressure of getting a meal ready. There are people here who are mourning the loss of a loved one, or the pain of missing someone who is far away, and this warm place at least gives them some comfort. Folks here sit at tables together, some groups have been at a particular table for years...but newcomers are always welcome. When regulars are absent, we don't only worry about them; someone goes and checks to make sure that they are OK.

And at the end? We give away bread and baked goods donated from nearly a dozen local businesses. Not only is everyone well fed, but they also get to take food home.

When the world gets crazy, as it seems to have done in the past few weeks, my heart and soul drift back to this place where Eucharist is not only celebrated....it is also practiced.

I pray that you can take some time today, or in the next few days, to sit down with your community to eat together. That is when Christ, when our common humanity at its best, is revealed....in the breaking of the bread.


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