Philosophers have measured mountains,
Fathom'd the depths of seas, of states, and kings,
Walk'd with a staff to heaven, and traced fountains
But there are two vast, spacious things,
The which to measure it doth more behove:
Yet few there are that sound them; Sin and Love.
Who would know Sin, let him repair
Unto Mount Olivet; there shall he see
A man, so wrung with pains, that all his hair,
His skin, his garments, bloody be.
Sin is that Press and Vice, which forceth pain
To hunt his cruel food through every vein.
Who knows not Love, let him assay,
And taste that juice, which on the cross a pike
Did set again abroach; then let him say
If ever he did taste the like.
Love is that liquor sweet and most divine,
Which my God feels as blood; but I, as wine.
by George Herbert 1593-1633
For my contribution to today's Via Crucis Gridblog
, I am to take a look at Jesus' introduction of the Eucharist. In recent years, when I reflect on the Lord's Supper those concluding lines of Herbert's poem come to mind. I am low church and have always been low church. Communion held little mystery for me most of my life. If I happened to be in "big church" on the first Sunday of the month, I would take it. The main focus always seemed to be confession of our sins - using the ritual as an opportunity to make sure we were right with God and others. I don't see that as a bad thing, but it was devoid of any mystery.
So it was meditating on Herbert's words that got me thinking more about the beauty and significance of participating in the Lord's Supper. This was a way of experiencing God's love and extending that love to others. This is an act that binds us together - we take and eat in the way Jesus did. We remember his sacrifice, his love, and his teachings. We can come to the table with a common act to bind us together.
Which is why I have a really hard time understanding when people use this act to exclude others. I'm not ignorant of the theological differences or the traditions of men the church has created regarding the ritual, but all too often they support judgementalism instead of love. You weren't baptized in this church, we can't celebrate Christ together. You aren't an ordained male, so I can't remember Christ whenever we eat and drink with you. We think you are a sinner, so we won't serve you communion until you start acting like us. You haven't said the magic words of the sinner's prayer yet, so you can't partake of Christ's love. We are right you're wrong. We're in, you're out.
Ecumenical groups like the Emerging Church are faced with decisions here. We say we like "centered" as opposed to "bounded" sets when it comes to things like doctrine. So Emergent doesn't have a set doctrine that can be used to exclude. But what about communion? At the Emerging Women gatherings we take it together, but still have to acknowledge that it could be an issue for some. At the Glorietta Gathering, I had people refuse to take communion from me (was it the setting, my not being ordained, my gender???). In other groups the decision is to forgo communion altogether because of the strong opinions surrounding it. Forgo communion. Say we are too different to acknowledge that we are part of the same body. We don't follow the same Christ. Our traditions and fences are more important than God's love.
I know many disagree with me, but I see communion/the Eucharist/ the Lord's Supper as an open table. Whoever wants to celebrate Christ for whatever reason can take part in the ritual. It is a way of claiming what is common, what binds up together, what makes us one body. To me it is about love and faith as opposed to institutions and traditions. Yes, I am low church, ecumenical, and emerging (all evil words to some). Yes, I know that this is seen as a complex issue. But this is where my journey has brought me - how I have come to see the deeper significance in this act of breaking bread and drinking wine together.
[Grid::Blog::Via Crucis 2007]
Labels: Via Crucis Gridbllog