To the bulk of you who have hungered for quite some time for weekly communion, this will be good news. But the Session is aware in our discernment there are others who for a variety of reasons have reservations. The rest of this note is especially for you.
Moreover, the Lord's Supper is a part of what the Christian community does and has done regularly not just since the Reformation, but for millennia. It has only been lost in recent generations when our practice at table became more like a funeral that only mourns the tragedy of Jesus' death at our sinful hands. Indeed these elements are not just "Christ's body broken" and "Christ's blood shed" but "the bread of heaven and the cup of salvation!" We have recovered this feast for what it truly is, the self-giving of God that enacts and enables our new life together in the Kingdom of God here and now.
We encounter the wisdom of communion's transformative power again and again in scripture. The Emmaus story (Luke 24) is an example of Luke's theology of word and table that you have heard me cite before. The disciples hear Jesus teach the word while they are on the road, but it was in the breaking of the bread that their eyes were open (vs. 31). Acts 2:43-47 also reveals the pattern of practice of the early church: day by day the disciples met for worship at the Temple with a meal together in their homes afterwards. Paul's letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 11:20-33) shows the nature of these meals that you will no doubt recognize from our practice and our song: we eat together remembering Jesus and feeding others as we have been fed—in our mission we become Christ's body broken for the world.
Luther, another reformer, once defined worship as the tenth leper turning back. You will recall the story in Luke 17 of the ten lepers who come to Jesus seeking healing. They all are healed, but only one returns to give thanks. The structure of the story in Luke 17 is actually the structure of traditional worship. According to the PCUSA blog Font & Table:
We stand at a distance from God because of the disease of our sin. But we cry out, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us" (vs. 13) in our confession of sin. Jesus speaks. We respond to the Word in obedience, and as we do so, we are healed, restored. The Greek verb here is the same as that used for catharsis, meaning cleansed, purged, released from an emotional burden. Only the leper who turns back to give thanks, though, is made whole. The Greek is most interesting here. The tenth leper doxologizes Jesus, falling prostrate before him, which is a worship stance and a position of obeisant loyalty before royalty. Then he gives thanks, eucharistéo, the same word we use for eucharist or holy communion. It is at this point that Jesus declares the leper whole, sozo, the word used for salvation.
If you've made it this far, you are either very committed to or pleased by this shift, or you are still concerned. So let me add this: Worship is always about our free response to our experience of God. If you have reservations, remember that you are always free to participate by not participating. Taking communion is no more mandatory than singing every verse of every hymn. If you don't hunger, for whatever reason, you don't have to come to the table. You are no less a part of Christ's body. Or if you wish, come with your arms crossed and receive a blessing rather than some bread. This, in fact, is another ancient practice for those who are in a season that calls for fasting. Sometimes our act of worship is giving generously to others within the community what we do not need ourselves.
And as always, remember the promises made in baptism. We are one with one another not because we always agree, but because together we have what we cannot have alone, because we are members of Christ's body, not ourselves alone the body, because iron sharpens iron. Let's be in conversation as together we seek the Kingdom of God.
Grace & Peace,