Passionfruit

Image

Image by Taka. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Life gave
what I took
for my own.

I learned
how to seize
with the hands,
how to tear
with the teeth.

I learned
what it felt like
to touch with the lips,
to press with the tongue,
to be surprised by how much
came out
when I broke the surface,
to be covered with sweetness
all over my body.

Now I know.
It’s complicated.

***

What I took
is mine.

I’m learning
how to build
with the hands,
how to hold nails
with the teeth.

Cleaning up
is never
as much fun
as messing up.

Construction
is never
as cathartic
as demolition.

Nails and wood
are not the same thing
as a tree.

They have no power
to give life.

I’m learning
what it feels like
to be covered with sweat
all over my body.

***

What I made
gave life.

It was an accident.
Nobody meant for it to happen
this way.
It just seemed like a good idea
at the time.

The hands that learned
to seize and build.
The teeth that learned
to tear and hold.
The facsimile of a tree.

I wasn’t expecting it
to be alive
when I broke the surface.

I was surprised by how much
came out
and covered me with blood
all over my body.

More forgetting
than learning
this time.

Not taken
for my own,
but given
by another.

Bartimaeus’ Empowerment

Image

William Blake [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Today’s gospel reading from the Daily Lectionary introduces us to Bartimaeus, a blind panhandler healed by Jesus in the final days before his crucifixion (Mark10:46-52). When he heard that Jesus was passing by, Bartimaeus started raising his voice, calling upon Jesus to do that which he was meant to do as King David’s anointed heir: liberate his people from oppression. The Temporarily Able-Bodied (TAB) people in the crowd wished this disabled nuisance and general drain-on-the-economy would just shut up and go back to being invisible.

But Jesus, for his part, stopped the parade and listened to the shouts that everyone else wished they weren’t hearing. Begrudgingly, the general public acknowledged to Bartimaeus that his appeal for freedom had been heard.

And when Bartimaeus finally did gain an audience with David’s heir, what happened? One would think that the chosen liberator would know exactly what to do on behalf of an uneducated societal reject. However, that’s not the route that Jesus took:

The Liberator wanted to hear Bartimaeus speak for himself.

Instead of prescribing, Jesus asked what he could do to help. And when the big, miraculous moment came, the Liberator refused to take credit. Instead, Jesus chalked up Bartimaeus’ newfound wellness to that which was already within him.

What kind of anointed Liberator is this?

Are we seeing clearly?

John Donne, Presbyter and Poet, 1631

Originally posted on For All the Saints:

One of the greatest of English poets, and the best known preacher of his day in the Church of England, John Donne (pronounced, “dun”) was born into a wealthy and pious Roman Catholic family around 1572. (His mother was the granddaughter of a sister of Sir Thomas More.) He entered Hart Hall, Oxford in 1584 and possibly studied after this at Cambridge or abroad. He studied law at the Inns of Court in London, entering Thavies Inn in 1591 and transferring to Lincoln’s Inn in 1592. During this time he was exercised over the problem of his religious allegiance (as a Catholic recusant in a country with a established reformed Church), and according to the biographer Izaak Walton, “betrothed himself to no Religion that might give him any other denomination than a Christian“. By 1598 he had conformed to the Church of England. In 1598 he entered into government…

View original 887 more words

Come to the Table: The Body of Christ

ImageAnd Then it Hit Me…

If someone was to walk up right now and randomly punch me in the arm, the first question I would think to ask is, “Ow! Why did you just hit me?”

Me. “Why did you hit me?”

Notice that I didn’t ask, “Why did you hit my arm?” That wouldn’t even occur to me. If that person was to say, “I didn’t hit you, I just hit your arm,” I would think that person was crazy. My arm is a part of me. When someone hurts a part of my body, they are hurting me. I know that instinctually. I could never think of it in any other way.

My arms and my legs form part of the same body. It’s the same with you and me. We are parts of the same body as well: the Body of Christ. Whatever affects one of us, affects all of us. When one of us hurts, all of us hurt. This is the truth we’re telling today.

Series Recap

Today marks the fourth in our five-week Lenten series on the sacrament of the Eucharist. On the first week, we talked about what it means when we say that the Eucharist is a “symbol.” On the second week, we reflected on the Eucharist as a remembrance of past events. Last week and this week, we’re talking about the Eucharist as a present reality. Next week, we’ll wrap it up by talking about the Eucharist as an anticipation of the future.

For now, we’re talking about the Eucharist as a present reality. Last week, we looked at the vertical aspect of that reality: the Eucharist as spiritual nourishment. Today, we’re looking at the horizontal aspect of that reality: the Eucharist as Communion. As we partake of the one bread and the one cup, we are being reminded that we are members of one body: the Body of Christ.

A Church in Crisis

I’d like to tell you the story of a church I heard about a while back. This church was located in a large, wealthy, cosmopolitan city. They were a pretty successful church, by most accounts. They were young, having been planted in the last generation or so, but had been around long enough that their founding pastor had moved on and they had recently called a new pastor. This new pastor was also young, charismatic, and highly skilled at his job. He was known far and wide as an excellent preacher and folks just loved to listen to his sermons. The church had experienced a period of intense growth, numerically speaking. They now had some prominent, wealthy givers in the congregation. Spiritually speaking, this church was a place where many people had experienced the power of God touching their lives in a deep, personal, and meaningful way.

Sounds pretty good, right? But all was not well.

This church had everything going for it, but it was extremely dysfunctional beneath the surface. Internally, they were all split up into factions over silly stuff. For example, some folks liked the new pastor, some liked the old one better, and others were getting all excited about this other pastor they had heard about from friends out-of-town. There were differences in theology and worship-styles that were tearing the church apart. In order to appease the wealthy new members, they intentionally started holding services at a time when they knew it would be more difficult for some of the poorer church members to get off work. When they did manage to get there, the church was arranged so that the wealthiest members had a special VIP section where they were allowed to sit and worship, while the lower-income members who were coming straight from work had to sit in the back and only got to eat leftovers from the church’s potluck supper. To make matters worse, there was a family in the church that was caught up in a pretty serious crisis, but the pastor and the elders were so caught up in dealing with the quarreling factions that this family’s problems were being ignored and they weren’t getting the kind of pastoral care they needed. That’s pretty messed up, right?

Things got so bad at this church that they had to call in an outside consultant to help them fix these problems. As it turns out, that consultant turned out to be none other than their former pastor, the one who first started this congregation and knew them all very well. Given the deep trust and relationship that they already had with him, this pastor decided not to mince words and cut straight to the heart of the matter: he showed them that their problem was not with their location, their demographic, their pastor, or the depth of their spiritual experience. No, their problem was in the way they treated each other. No matter how many other signs of success they might possess, a church just isn’t church unless its members love each other as if they were parts of the same body. That’s what a Christian church is: the Body of Christ. Any congregation that doesn’t live that truth as its raison d’etre is not really a church in the eyes of God. Those are some harsh words, eh?

Corinthian Communion

Well, it’s time for me to pull back the curtain and reveal this church’s name. It’s not a congregation from our area, our denomination, or even our era of history (although it could easily be all three). The church I’ve been describing is the church in Corinth that St. Paul wrote to in the middle of the first century CE. Paul was that founding pastor who was called in to help fix this mess the Corinthian Christians had got themselves into.

In today’s New Testament reading, we get a snippet of Pastor Paul’s first round of advice to the Corinthians. He’s offering them some constructive criticism about the way they celebrate the sacrament of the Eucharist.

His words are harsh: he tells them that their Communion services do more harm than good. In fact, it doesn’t even really count as the Lord’s Supper because they are eating the bread and drinking the cup of the Lord in an “unworthy manner”.

What does that mean? It’s not a problem with the ritual they use, nor is Paul upset over their theological interpretation of what is happening to the bread and wine in said ritual. No, Paul’s problem has to do with the way they treat each other as they partake of the Body and Blood of Christ. In other words, their dysfunctional relationships are what render the sacrament invalid, not their rituals or their theology.

As I mentioned above, the Corinthian Christians were doing church in a way that made it difficult for the poorer members of the community to participate in worship. Their celebration of the Eucharist took place as part of a full meal where people were divided according to social class and status. The wealthy members would eat together in one room and get the choicest food, while the poorest Christians would get whatever was left over. Their feast was reinforcing the kind of social barriers that Christ had worked so hard to break down. In Paul’s eyes, this exclusive practice was a slap in the face to the gospel itself. Any Communion service celebrated in such a way could never be a true sharing in the Body and the Blood of Christ.

Discerning the Body

Pastor Paul’s advice to this wayward congregation is simple: “Discern the body.” For him, that does not mean “look within yourself” to decide whether or not you are morally worthy of receiving the sacrament. Likewise, “discerning the body” does not mean looking at the elements of bread and wine, as if something magical were about to happen to them. For Paul, “discerning the body” means looking around, at the other faces in the room, the people coming to Communion with you. These are your brothers and sisters in Christ. We are members of one body: the Body of Christ. Our sharing of the one bread and the one cup reflects that reality. Likewise, our celebration of this unifying sacrament should change the way we relate to one another, outside church as well as inside. The Eucharist bestows upon us a serious commitment and responsibility: each of us is our brother’s (and sister’s) keeper. This sacrament should remind us that we are all vitally connected to one another and are therefore responsible for each other’s well-being. When we realize this truth and embody it in our lives, we begin to look like the kind of church that Paul (and Jesus) had in mind.

Forgetting What Matters

I saw a headline in the news this week that reminded me of this truth. A certain faith-based international relief organization called World Vision made a change in its hiring policy that made many of its donors uncomfortable. They announced that, for the purposes of hiring and bestowing spousal benefits upon employees, World Vision would recognize legal marriages between two people of the same gender.

There was a fierce and sudden outcry among several prominent conservative Christian leaders in this country. Many of World Vision’s donors immediately pulled their financial support from the organization. These donors, of course, have a right to not support a charitable organization whose practices do not line up with their conscience and personal beliefs.

However, there is another element to this story. World Vision’s primary support is built on a sponsorship model, meaning that individual donors make a commitment to sponsor a particular child in a third world country for about $40 a month. Their money goes to feed, clothe, educate, and give health care to that child. Over time, a relationship develops between these kids and theirs sponsors as letters are written back and forth. A deep sense of spiritual connection is nurtured across the barriers of culture, distance, and poverty. This is the kind of Communion that Paul was hoping to see in the Corinthian church.

But last week at World Vision, when these outraged Christians raised a voice of protest against a policy change they disagreed with, they didn’t write letters or try to negotiate with the board of directors. Instead, they went straight for the jugular by cancelling their sponsorship of particular children. They cut off the support that makes the difference between life and death for some of these children. According to World Vision’s director, the number of canceled sponsorships was “less than 5,000” (but I presume that to mean it was more than 4,000).

These angry Christians decided that keeping married gay and lesbian people out of their “personal bubble” was more important than the lives of these particular children, with whom they had a relationship and to whom they had made a personal commitment. They used the lives of these children as leverage for their personal agenda.

I believe Pastor Paul would have some choice words for the Christians who did this: “They have failed to discern the Body of Christ.” They have forgotten what is most important, what Communion is all about, and what it means to be the Body of Christ. Just as Paul said to the Corinthian Christians, he would say again: “Being a Christian is not about having an airtight theology, a superior spiritual experience, or ensuring that one’s faction emerges victorious in whatever conflict happens to be engulfing the church at the moment. The mark of an authentic Christian faith is in the way we care for one another. Do we treat each other like members of one body? Do we love one another as Christ loves us?” In their opposition to marriage between people of the same gender, these angry Christians (the ones who pulled their sponsorship of World Vision kids) have lost touch with the deeper Communion that connects us to one another and makes us morally responsible for one another as members of the Body of Christ. And it is children who are now paying the price for that forgetting with their lives.

Restoring Communion

The Eucharist reminds us of this forgotten truth. When our own personal agendas and prejudices threaten to divide us into tribes of culture warriors in the perennial battle of Us vs. Them, the Eucharist has the power (if we let it) to bring us back into Communion with one another, where our eyes, minds, and hearts can be re-opened to the truth that binds us together at the deepest level: we are members of one body—the Body of Christ.

When we realize that truth and embrace it with our whole being, then we the Church will truly begin to act like the Body of Christ on earth and we will more faithfully fulfill our Christian calling.

St. Teresa of Avila (14th Century Mystic)

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Come to the Table: Bread of Life

ImageMaslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Do you have a favorite food?  What makes it your favorite?  When you choose it over other foods, are you simply satisfying your body’s need for nourishment, or are you feeding something else inside you?  Any edible substance can keep us from starving to death, but our favorite foods also feed our needs for comfort, for variety, and for pleasure.

We humans have all kinds of needs (hungers) and just as many different ways of meeting those needs (feeding those hungers).  There was a 20th century psychologist named Abraham Maslow who specialized in studying human needs.  He developed a very famous, pyramid-shaped chart called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  On this chart, Maslow outlined the different kinds of needs that people have to get met in order to be healthy human beings.

On the first, lowest level, are our Physiological needs.  These are our basic needs for things like food, water, air, and sleep.  Without these things, we physically die, so it’s easy to see how they are genuine needs.

The same is true for the next level, which has to do with our need for Safety.  Without shelter from the elements, protection from threats, and reliable access to resources, our physical well-being will likewise be threatened, just as much as if we were deprived of water or air.

After that, we start to get into a little more abstract territory because the next three levels have to do with our emotional needs.  Our biological existence is not likely to be threatened if we don’t get these needs met, but they are still needs.  And it’s fair to say that something inside of us suffers and dies when these emotional needs aren’t met.

The first of these emotional needs is our need for Belonging.  Human beings need love, intimacy, friendship, and family.  We are social creatures who have evolved to be connected to one another.  We meet this need most often through group-identification: membership in a family, church, club, or movement.  When this need goes unmet, loneliness begins to set in.  We begin to feel unloved and unlovable.  Over time, a person’s social skills begin to break down (or never develop): their ability to relate to others becomes diminished.  This is the saddest part of all because this is where the disease of loneliness becomes a vicious cycle: loneliness impairs one’s ability to relate to others, which causes more loneliness, etc.  What is needed at this point is for some person(s) to reach out and break the cycle of loneliness, but they have to be willing to work with those whose social skills are impaired.  It takes no less than an act of grace.

North Church’s primary outreach ministry, the Togetherness Group, was designed specifically around this need for Belonging.  There are plenty of places in Kalamazoo where people with mental illness can go to obtain food, shelter, or medicine, but so very few places like the Togetherness Group, where we can come to just be together and have fun.

Our next emotional need on Maslow’s list is the need for Esteem.  People need to feel valuable, that they’re good at something.  We need to have respect in the eyes of others.  Nobody likes to feel like a charity case; everyone has a gift to give.

Finally is our need for Self-Actualization.  As the old Army commercial says, we need to “be all that we can be.”  Humans need to feel like they are fulfilling their potential in some way: as an athlete, inventor, parent, etc.  We need to accomplish something significant in some way.

So, that’s the Hierarchy of Needs, as Maslow first wrote about it.  It seems comprehensive enough.  It accurately describes the various kinds of needs (hungers) that human beings try to meet (feed) in various ways.  It’s been a trusted guide for therapists and social workers for decades.

Tiger Woods

But if Maslow was right, and this guide is comprehensive of human need, then how do we explain the kind of major public meltdowns that so many accomplished celebrities seem to go through?  I’m thinking particularly of Tiger Woods, although I’m not trying to pick on him.  Tiger is one of the most accomplished golfers in the history of the sport.  He achieved unprecedented levels of success very early in his career. 

It’s easy to see where Tiger falls in Maslow’s hierarchy: he obviously lacked for nothing Physiologically.  He could buy whatever necessities or luxuries his heart desired.  As for Safety, his “shelter from the elements” cost $39 million and was located on an exclusive, upscale island in Florida. I have little doubt that his body guards did their duty in protecting him from other dangers.

What about his emotional needs?  When it comes to Belonging, Tiger was married to a supermodel and they had a family together.  As for Esteem, he was known and admired all over the world.  And for Self-Actualization, he had achieved greatness as a record-breaking golfer.  By Maslow’s standards, Tiger Woods had it made.

But then, in 2009, it all seemed to come crashing down for him overnight.  Rumors broke about extramarital affairs.  That same week, Tiger left his house at 2:30 in the morning and tried (unsuccessfully) to drive down his street, crashing his SUV into a fire hydrant, a tree, and multiple hedgerows before he gave up and his wife helped him out of the car.  A short time later, Tiger admitted to the infidelity, went on an indefinite hiatus from professional golf, and was soon divorced from his wife.  Sports companies pulled their sponsorships and stopped asking for his endorsement.  It took years for his career to recover.

What happened?  This is what Tiger himself had to say: “I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to… I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn’t have to go far to find them. I was wrong. I was foolish.” 

It seems that Maslow must have overlooked something.  In spite of all his needs being met, there was still something missing in Tiger, some inner hunger that wasn’t being fed by anything on Maslow’s chart.

Self-Transcendence

Well, before we leave Maslow, I want to give him credit for one last thing: At the end of his career, he realized that something was missing.  He tried to add it to his famous chart, but the old one was already too well-established and in-use by psychologists.  That unaccounted-for need, according to Maslow, is the need for Self-Transcendence: the need to be part of something larger than oneself, something meaningful, something that gives life itself a purpose.  That’s what Tiger was lacking. 

The 17th century philosopher Blaise Pascal called it “the God-shaped hole” inside every human being.  It is the deep hunger we carry within us.  Nothing we own or accomplish for ourselves can ever fill it.  Our consumerist culture doesn’t know what to do with that.  It’s got products or programs to fill every other need we can imagine.  Whatever you need… “There’s an app for that!”  But for this “God-shaped hole”, there is no product you can buy, no program you can get with, no club you can join, and no diploma you can earn.

Jesus

This need for Self-Transcendence, this God-shaped hole, this deep hunger for that which gives life ultimate meaning is the hunger Jesus is referring to in today’s gospel reading when he speaks of himself as “the bread of life.”  For almost two thousand years and counting, Christians have found in this person Jesus the answer to the question, “What is the purpose of my life?”  The answer we find is: “To follow this person and do as he does: to love the world, to heal the sick, to feed the hungry, to open blind eyes and deaf ears, to set the captive free, to forgive the sinner, to welcome the outcast, and to give one’s life for the sake of the world.” 

We discover the meaning of life and satisfy our need for Self-Transcendence when we discover that life is no longer just about us and our needs.  And Jesus shows us the way.

Eucharist

In the Eucharist, this truth is brought home to us in the most direct and visceral way.  It is a ritual meal where our most basic hunger for physical sustenance is fed by bread and wine.  But Jesus invites us to look past the surface and see with the eyes of our hearts that this is the “true food” that satisfies our deepest hunger with the eternal, loving life-energy of Christ’s own self. 

“This is my body,” Christ says, “Eat your fill and never be hungry again.”

“This is my blood,” Christ says, “Drink deeply and never be thirsty again.”

When we say “Yes” to the invitation to participate in this meal and come to the table of Christ, we are saying:

“Yes, Jesus.  I am hungry.  I am starving with a hunger that this world’s products and programs cannot satisfy.  Help me satisfy my deepest need by realizing that life is not about getting my needs met.  Feed me with your Bread of Life.   Fill me.  Let my body be your body.  Let your blood flow in my veins.  Make me like you and send me back out to feed a hungry world in your name.  Amen.”

Come to the Table: In Remembrance of Me (or ‘The Eucharist for Time Travellers’)

Image

By John Snyder (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I recently had the privilege of officiating at the funeral of a rather unconventional saint named Gloria. She was a rough-around-the-edges kind of grandma who exuded a kind of exuberant joy to those who loved her. Her home was an oasis for weary travelers who knew they could stop by any time and find food on the stove and drinks in the fridge. My favorite part of the funeral was when her grandson, Donald, got up and said as much about her. He spoke affectionately and off-the-cuff. It meant a great deal to everyone who came. Honestly, I think Donald’s brief remembrances of his grandmother did more to comfort bereaved family members than anything I said or did in the service.

What is it about the act of remembering that people tend to find so valuable? Obviously, the good feelings we get from fond memories help to offset the pain of loss, but I suspect there is actually much more to it than that.

When we remember something or someone, we saying that we want that thing or person to remain a part of us in some significant way.

For example, Donald sharing memories of his grandma’s hospitality and humor on behalf of his family was a way of saying that they want those same qualities of love and laughter to live on in them. We do this with negative things too, like the Holocaust. The great, resounding refrain that we hear again and again from the lips of Holocaust historians is: “Never again.” When we remember the Holocaust, we are not celebrating its existence, but stating out loud that we want the pain of twelve million lost lives to remain with us, so that future generations of human beings will never know the horror of genocide. This too, is a powerful kind of remembrance.

We’re talking about remembrance today. This is the second in a five-week series on the meaning of the sacrament of the Eucharist in the life of the church. Remembrance is the part of this sacrament that we Protestants are most familiar with. We eat bread and drink wine in accordance with Jesus’ command, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

This sacrament is obviously a great memorial to Jesus’ love and sacrifice. When we celebrate it, we are saying that we want those same values of Christ-like love and sacrifice to live on in us. But there’s even more to it than that: when we remember Jesus in the sacrament, we are saying that Christ himself lives in us. As we eat the body of Christ, we become the body of Christ; as we drink from the cup, his blood flows in our veins. To put it simply: you are what you eat.

This truth becomes especially pertinent when we consider how ancient humans thought about time.  We modern folks have been trained to think of time as a straight line, moving in one direction, from the past to the future.  Two fixed points in time can never get closer to one another.  Once an event has taken place, we can only get farther and farther away from it.  Memory fades and sooner or later, everyone is forgotten while the universe goes on.  That’s the modern, linear view of time.

But our ancestors in the ancient world didn’t see time that way.  They saw the world operating in cycles: every day, the sun would rise and set; every month, the moon would go through its phases; every year, the four seasons would come around again.  Time, for them, was a great big circle.  Every time a certain moment in a particular cycle came round again, they thought they were repeating that moment.  This is the cyclical view of time.

This way of looking at time is important for us linear, modern folks to understand because it helps us make sense of why certain holidays were so important to ancient people.  When our Jewish ancestors would celebrate the Passover, they really believed, on some level, that they were taking part in the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt.  By taking part in the ceremonial meal, they thought they were joining their ancestors on that journey.  (For all you science fiction fans: it’s kind of like time travel.)

This is how Jesus and his disciples would have thought about the Passover meal they were sharing on the night before he died.  So, when Jesus starts adding elements to the story, saying “this is my body” and “this is my blood” over the ceremonial bread and wine, it was a big deal.  It meant that what was happening through Jesus was as important to history as the Exodus from Egypt.

Later on, as Jesus’ earliest followers started celebrating this remembrance on a weekly basis, they brought with them that cyclical view of time.  The truly believed they were joining Jesus and the apostles around the table at the Last Supper.  (Again: time travel!)

For them, the Last Supper was not a single event, fading slowly into the distant past, but a recurring one in which Christ is perpetually present.  According to the linear view of time, we can only ever get further and further away from Jesus, who lived on earth approximately two thousand years ago.  But according to the cyclical view of time, he is ever present: we meet him again and again as we gather around this table in this act of remembrance.

Why is this important?  I think it matters today more than ever.  You and I live in the age of the Information Superhighway.  Infinite bits of data whiz by our heads at all hours of the day or night: news headlines, sports scores, stock prices, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.  Our culture launches ahead with each new discovery, each new technological innovation.  We’re obsessed with “bigger, better, faster, more!”  We call it progress.  But is it really?  But have these fancy, hi-tech toys really done much to improve who we are as human beings?  We’ve landed robots on Mars, but have we yet touched down on the surface of our own souls?  I’m not so sure.

We have a wealth of information at hand to keep us abreast of what’s happening in the world, but very little wisdom to tell us what it all means.  Without that kind of deep guidance, I fear that our rocket ship toward progress might actually leave us falling head first into meaninglessness.

Our ancient ancestors may not have had the kind of scientific knowledge that we moderns do, but they knew about wisdom.  I am continually amazed when I read the great spiritual classics like The Dark Night of the Soul and The Cloud of Unknowing and I find their messages just as relevant today as they were when they were first written, hundreds of years ago.

At no time is this truer for me than when I sit down at the table next to Jesus.  I hear his words, eat his bread, and drink his wine.  And suddenly, I find myself time travelling: looping around to connect again with the One who gives life meaning.  Jesus Christ is not a distant memory, fading slowly into the past; he is alive and present with us in his body and blood.

Taking time each week to remember this truth gives us the perspective we need to see the world aright.  In the act of sacramental remembrance, we step outside the constant stream of information and feed back repeatedly into this moment around the table with Jesus.  We remember once again what Jesus showed and taught us.  We remember what life is all about and then step back out into that data stream again, but maybe this time we’ll have the wisdom to see, not just what is happening in the world, but what it all means.

The answer we come up with, as people of faith, to that question of meaning will be fundamentally different from the answer handed to us by (so-called) modern civilization.  The challenge Jesus leaves us with is to remember in our souls and bodies where we truly come from, where we are going, and where our allegiance lies.

It’s a difficult challenge, one that we’re sure to fail at in the long term, which is why it’s so important for us to keep coming back regularly and participating as often as possible in this act of remembrance.  May this bread and this wine, the body and blood of Christ, nourish you with all the strength you need to make it through this week faithfully… and I’ll see you again next Sunday.

Being Part of Something That is Dying: Why I Stay Presbyterian

J. Barrett Lee:

Absolutely brilliant.

Originally posted on creating sacred communities:

image

Conversations:

“We tried out the Presbyterian Church down the street, but we were the youngest people there and we are in our 40′s! We don’t want our kids to be the only one’s in confirmation, so we are going to go to the mega church. We don’t really agree with their theology, but our kids love the events and we want them to want to go to church.”

“We tried out the Presbyterian Church down the street, but they were too conservative. I can’t be part of a church that all they ever talk about is who is excluded. It’s too tense. Church should be a place where everyone is welcome. I don’t feel welcome there. I can have a nice morning devotional and be with my friends in my book group and get the community I need without the tension of the church. I’m so sick of all the…

View original 709 more words