Hear our voice, O Lord, according to your faithful love.
Robert Mapplethorpe. Orchids. 1989.
Being consumed again by love
Reading the newspapers, listening to the radio, watching the television and pouring over the internet can be a sad experience when it comes to catching up with the churches and their seemingly constant arguing. How on earth can such wangling be brought to an end? What will give Christians a more realistic, humane and faithful grasp of what they should really be about? Where are the resources of transformation to be found? The answer to these questions resides, many of us believe, in the neglected and transformative rites that already lie in our hands (quite literally). For each week, especially on a Sunday, Christians across the globe eat bread and wine together in anticipation of a new world coming—a world where sharing will be the norm rather than an exception or an "ethical option".
Communion, Eucharist, Mass. Call it what you will. To many outside the church (as well as a few within) it remains a bizarre and arcane ritual. But to those who view it as a key embodiment of Christian hope it is about being transformed by Christ into a Body bound together by inexhaustible love.
Insofar as this tums out to be true or false, everything else in the Christian life depends notjust on "taking communion", but on the way that it is done—in the world, not just the sanctuary.
Consecrating bread at "the Lord's table" is an important act not least because it is, practically and historically, a profoundly dangerous one. For it calls into question who we are, who Jesus is, what bodies are, what sacrifice means, how God's peaceable kingdom comes, and what is truly involved in sharing—or not—the very stuff of life.
Since I am an Anglican who these days consorts willingly with Anabaptists, I also cannot afford to forget that some of my ancestors killed, and many of my wife's ancestors were killed, in disputes over what the bread of life really amounts to. And they did this, Catholics and Protestants alike, without apparently realising that they were desecrating the very Body they sought to honour by their supposedly God-fearing actions. The warning to us about how we administer our tables could not be stronger. [Continues tomorrow …] Simon Barrow. "Being Consumed Again by Love," in Fear or Freedom: Why a Warring Church Must Change. (London: Ekklesia, 2008), pp. 117-123.
Kim Andre Arnesen. Even when He is silent. Mogens Dahl Chamber at the Church of Holmen, Denmark.
The text was found written on a wall at a concentration camp after World War 2. The composer Kim Andre Arnesen read it as a Credo; even if everything is dark and difficult in life, and you might wonder where God is, or if He is there at all. It's about keeping your faith in God, love and hope.
May God our Redeemer show us compassion and love. Amen.