Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Gourmet Eucharist: Our Musings on the Kingdom

This year in Chile, we have been reflecting on what we are calling the 'Gourmet Eucharist'. This idea came from a discussion we were having about how disappointing our current practice of Holy Communion has become. Most times, we spend five minutes or so in personal, quiet reflection while we partake in our single-serving wafer and grape juice. More often than not, the bread is reminiscent of a thin slice of styrofoam, and the juice (we dare not use wine) consumed invokes that same shivering reaction that we used to get when we had to take a spoonful of grape cough syrup when we were children.

It seems so poor, so pathetic, so vacant of the rich meaning with which it was imbibed from the beginning.

Jesus said, 'As often as you take from this bread and drink from this cup, remember me'. At our house, we regularly eat bread and drink wine. So, we thought, why not pause at every meal wherein bread and wine are present and remember the significance that Jesus infused these otherwise banal and meaningless products? And why not invite others to participate with us? The Eucharist (which is another fancy way of saying 'Holy Communion') has become gourmet to us; not only physically, but socially and spiritually.

It is the breaking of bread and the sharing of wine in the name of Christ. The Gourmet Eucharist is the idea that at the table of Christ all are welcome, especially the marginalized, the most needy, the excluded, the poor. He prepares this table among us, in us, and through us. And he calls us to be intentional in announcing the Host's invitation (Luke 14).

What we find particularly compelling is that the mystical significance found in the Eucharist is it has the potential of being a profoundly economic act. (Yoder)

Around the table of the Christ all are welcome.

Deuteronomy 15.4 there was a promise that was to be fulfilled by living it out. God's statement is striking: 'There will be no poor among you, for the Lord God will bless you in the land which he gives you for an inheritance to possess'. There will be no poor among you...

No poor. No one going hungry. No person being left out...all are invited to share in God's impartial goodness.

Later, Luke reflects on this passage and sees the dynamic of the new, eucharist community created by Jesus. He says in Acts 4.34 that 'there was not needy person among them for as many as were possessors of lands' gave and distributed to those in need.

I find it interesting that both texts talk about possessing land--God promised it in the former, and it was realized in the latter. We talk about the right to land, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I'm not so sure how much of a right we have to these so much as they are blessings given to us from God (and there is a subtle distinction worthy of noting). God blesses with the expectation that we would become his blessing to others. What we have comes to us not because of our right to possess them, but because he has promised to bless us. And, so it seems, he does so in order that we would learn from his generosity and begin to imitate him.

Land meant food production, which is the source of our gathering around the table. It would seem that God's purpose was for us to share the good that the Lord has blessed us with by giving to those who have nothing.

This is the essence of the Eucharist: we are blessed with the body of Christ (represented in the bread) to become the Body of Christ. In short, to look as Jesus did in the world today. And the wine--it represents his blood, this goes without saying. However, it goes much deeper. The wine represents his grace--abundant, rich, flowing over us--fully expressed in his cleansing, forgiving blood.

We partake in order to become. we receive God's grace through the blood of Jesus and we somehow become his Grace extended to others.

This is what Jesus came to make possible for us.

We break our bread, we give our wine and there's still more for everyone. There will be no poor among you. And there was not a needy person among them.

...the Gourmet Eucharist.

May your tables be full of his grace and may those most in need find that they are welcome to dine with you.

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