09 October 2007

Communion's No Joke

I never really read 1 Corinthians' instructions about the Eucharist before, at least not in the context of a sacramental theology class.

1 Corinthians 11:27 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.

Hold the phone!

It has taken me until my third year to realize I need seminary even more than my adult convert peers here, because I've taken it all for granted, my whole life. You go to Communion because you do. It's what we do. Certainly I remember, growing up, a big fight in my church when some angry people didn't want to take communion from the big bad priest, and somebody said something under their breath about "love and charity with your neighbors." And now we have some Anglican brothers (and sisters?) who refuse to take communion from so-and-so becaue they are gay, or they are gay-loving folk.

"without recognizing the body of the Lord..."
That's us, right? We're not talking about magic bread, are we, but about recognizing the body is us, gathered and symbolized in gathering? What does it mean to recognize the body of the Lord? Can babies do it? Can I do it? Can my evangelical in-laws do it?

"that is why many of you are weak and sick..."
Certainly the Corinthian community has been fighting with each other and Paul is addressing that. How might his explanation apply now? What might a return to "recognizing the body of the Lord" do for my own community's divisions?

The trouble is, I get the feeling there's no community that really agrees on what communion means, or what the body of the Lord is. Perhaps we need not agree, but agree to look for it together. That's why OK on babies, OK on my in-laws, and OK on me -- because all three are on the watch for it.

"A man ought to examine himself..."
As I've been meditating on these verses I have begun examining myself before taking communion, in obedience to this text. Turns out it's a great discipline, especially when I'm almost to the table, like a kid using her sticky fingers to pull herself up to see over the top. For me it is the perfect moment to ask myself: what's undone? am i trying to get away from anything? Knowing Paul had strong words for the fighting Corinthians as they ate and drank, I'm taking them to heart and meditating on how God may judge me in my eating and drinking.