I read somewhere that Frederick Buechner once said that the invitation to Communion—a rather, shall we say, overt image referenced in today’ Gospel lesson—was to “eat and drink”, not “eat and understand.”
At first, I didn’t really like that turn of phrase.
You see, I have this print in my office that says “Jesus came to take away our sins, not our minds”. So anything that sniffs of ignoring the God-given gift of a mind makes me respond with something of a knee-jerk. But as I have grown….I don’t think it age as much as maturity…. that turn of phrase now rings differently in my ears. Rather than an affront to intellect, I now find it an invitation into a different way of experiencing God, an invitation to trust, and invitation to mystery.
I remember the first time I had a conversation with a parishioner who objected to young children receiving Communion, citing that children didn’t understand (This isn’t one of those “look how bright I was as a young pastor moment). I proceeded this way, “well, YOU explain to me the full depth of Wesleyan Eucharistic Theology and then I might listen to you.” Yeah… not the most pastoral response that day.
While the execution had something to be desired, there is a point to be made—
When Jesus invites us to the the Communion Table—and thus to a life with Jesus—we are not invited to engage in a Theological discourse. No, don’t check your brains in at the door but….
We are not invited to come to the table as a finished product.
We do not come to the table having “figured it all out”.
We are invited to come and experience the living Jesus.
We are invited to come and experience the living Jesus, not despite but:
because we aren’t a finished product,
because we don’t have it figured out yet,
because we have broken places in the midst of deep beauty.
And it is here at the table that we get a chance to experience the living, present Jesus. And in doing that in gathered as a community, we are drawn together, we are one.
Can I tell you a secret? Do you remember two weeks ago when we gathered around the Communion Table over at Druid Hills? Does any remember the extra sentences about unity? “One Lord, One Faith One Baptism?” “That we might all be one?” I didn’t plan that. We use a resource that started as someone’s doctoral dissertation.
Now, most Sundays, I try to find my way over to the text to take a look at the words, run through them. But there was so much going on a couple of weeks ago that I didn’t get a chance to look at the text. So imagine the wonderful surprise as we were praying those words together. It was this wonderful serendipitous moment to embody gathering around the table, drawing closer to Christ while drawing together as individuals and as communities of faith. I couldn’t help but curl a smile.
In all our dreaming, conversations, and envisioning about coming together to do this new thing, there seems to be lots of energy. Positive energy. Maybe even God-inspired energy.
But there’s a temptation, too. There’s a temptation to think that we have to have figured out every single solitary aspect of what our possible future life together could look like.
And that’s simply not possible, mainly for the sheer reality that God, who we believe is somehow present and active in the midst of this, is not done with us. All that is possible has not yet been fully fleshed out in our God-inspired dreaming together.
And that can sometimes be scary.
One of the memes I’ve seen floating around the internet has been some variation of this: a church council is sitting with their brand new pastor saying that they want energy and enthusiasm. They want to new life to be infused in the congregation…. but for everything to remain exactly the same.
We laugh… maybe even a bit nervously…. but there is truth here.
There is a great deal of comfort… and indeed truth… that emanates from steeping, if you will, in God’s unchanging, abiding, and steadfast love. That presence is unchanging. From everlasting to everlasting, God still remains God.
As we journey together…. should we journey together (I don’t want to make any assumptions)…. there will be change.
Change is linked to doing something new!
You can’t do one without the other.
Yes, values abide.
The core values of noticing and celebrating the interplay of creativity found in the arts and creativity found in the movement of the Spirit abides.
A focus on children abides.
A focus on missions and justice abides.
And an awareness that those all have something to do with one another is a gift that I think our communities-at-large do see in us as communities of faith now but could see in us in a much greater, much finer fashion in the future.
To “eat and understand” is to claim control from God… well, to attempt to do so would be a better way of putting it. This way of hearing Christ’s invitation is to have a full grasp of not only our faculties but of the entire situation. Not only does this put OUR intellect in a place of primacy, but it also our own subjective experiences in the place where God abides—we might even try to claim the mantle of host. And it leaves us void of any sense of unfolding journey, of mystery, closing off an invitation to change.
But to “eat and drink” is to give oneself over to the mystery. To eat and drink is to recognize not only God for who God is, but to recognize the living Christ—active and present in our midst. To eat and drink is to put ourselves in position of guest and not host, receiving what we need in order to do what God would have us do in our community. But most salient to us, gathered here, is the observation that to eat and drink, invites us to move—not from guest to host but from guest to server. And when we come to The Table, we really do need two servers. One cannot hold both the bread and the cup and do either one well. One needs the other in order to be faithful in serving at the table. One needs the other in order to be faithful in serving in the world. And we need each other to carry out the mission of Christ in a way that truly gives life.