I have a sacramental view of faith.
So I believe that it is about vibrant living. That what is behind the sacraments is that we live and breathe and have our being. And not so much magic priestly hands or enlightenment-fueled intellectualism.
Both are total crap. What matters is that we’re in this together.
I don’t know what I first believed about the Eucharist. I was little. Like my son, I would try to get seconds at the altar rail.
When I talk about communion with our people, I joke about the styrofoam discs and remind the uninitiated that this stuff is real wine. And pretty strong.
But what never comes into my mind is what happens. It’s totally not a thing for me.
Those in-between years, the ones between my five year-old self and my thirty-something self? Well, that’s a different story.
I was just so literal.
As a kid. And as a young man. I look back now and I just shake my head.
I know we all do that, but man, I was arrogant. And obnoxious. I’m still both, but for totally different reasons.
Even when I went to seminary, I was a pretty normal liberal protestant. For those who keep score on these sorts of things, here’s the shop talk.
I was protestant, but not evangelical.
When I started seminary, I was Anglo-Catholic.
I left seminary as a broad church Anglican.
These days I’m so sick of these labels that I can’t feel like any of them stick. Or they all stick. When I read Brian McLaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy, I know many felt this way, but I really felt like he was writing to me.
All the things. And none of them. At the same time.
Dude, I’m such an Anglican. Here ends the church nerd shop talk.
My literalism fed my intellectualism.
I wanted to reason everything out and know the whys and make all my faith and practice make sense.
I thought there was a right thing to do and I could just learn what that is. Well, God has a way of helping us deal with our stupidity.
For some of us, that’s called ministry.
The work of faith dealt with the certainty, but it didn’t deal with what had been built off of it: my devotion to intellectualism.
I love theology. I liked Biblical Studies like an English major. And I ate up the history, starved to know a tradition I really knew so little about. But my real love is theology. It let’s out my poststructural proclivities and I can play all the ways of deconstructing the church and faith and the nature of God.
Man that stuff’s good!
And still I found that out in the world, the literalism and the intellectualism didn’t lead others to joy and gratitude and awakening. It didn’t encourage people to play and wrestle and get themselves dirty, creating new things for God. They weren’t offering a new thing to God like Able.
Maybe they’re too busy being Cain.
What does any of this have to do with the Eucharist?
I’m getting there.
In the church, we obsess like I did. Over the stuff and getting it right and doing it for the right reasons. Some Christians actually say they don’t do sacraments, but still baptize their kids or do Communion at least once a month.
We label something as sacrament and we give it a definition and we place this thing in a box. We put it up on the shelf and we stand in the store arguing with strangers about that thing in the box. Like it isn’t the thing we do because Jesus told us to. That it isn’t the full expression of Christian community.
To too many of us, it’s a thing. With a label. A box. And an excuse to fight. That the Eucharist is just another chance to rumble.
Is it really Jesus?
Is it just bread and wine?
That’s just a trap. Another excuse to fight.
So what happens in the Eucharist?
Does it matter? I’m serious. Does it?
Besides, do you know? Do you know better than the three year-old who would run into St. David’s shouting “I’m here to see Jesus!” and my own son who once at St. Paul’s came up, not just for seconds, but thirds?
No. You don’t.
What happens is that I hand a piece of bread to these people I’m getting to know better every week. And I get to see the tears in their eyes and the hope pushing the water out of their way.
And we experience the truth together.
That we have small lives with a short time and we would rather spend it following a Jesus who can get us to where we’re going. And it isn’t the destination we set out looking for as teens with a brand new license and too much stupid to realize how screwed up our adventure will be.
We’re seeking a God who will forgive even us. And show us that every week at a table with a promise.
What happens here changes the world.
And we get to walk away changed.
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This is from a series on Choices. We have plenty more choices to make!