Communion 2…

My friend Tim challenged me to go deeper with this.  So, I have been thinking about it for the last few days and meditating some more about why Communion is so significant right now in our time and place.

I keep going back to mystery and transcendence.  So much of our world today is “real” there is no imagination.  There is no mystery.  Our movies leave nothing to the imagination when it comes to sex, violence, or anything…really. Neither do sports.  I was struck by this when I heard a caller on the local sports station talk about his experience as a boy going to his first Tiger game.  He said that when he would watch a game on TV it was black and white.  He had to imagine the grass being green, the colors of the uniforms, and the color of the stadium.  He said that when he walked through the tunnel to enter his seats for the first time he was blown away by the color, the green grass, the green seats, the whiteness of the baseballs, the brownness of the dirt, the blueness of the steel.  It seared deeply in his memory.

We have lost that.  Now we have ‘High Def’ TVs were you can even see the sweat drip off the foreheads of the players and the individual blades of grass sway in the breeze. Mystery is gone.

That is the beautiful thing about the supper.  There is a mystery to it.  There is something that we can’t get our hands around.  There is an engagement of our imagination as we enter into the presence of the raised Jesus with us at the meal (or snack as it is now). If we will engage our imaginations in the mystery of this sacrament then we can regain something that has been lost. We can enter into the story of our faith and with the church invisible taste and see that the Lord is good. In a culture where our imaginations are stolen from us, actually, where we willingly give our imaginations away, this is our one opportunity to engage them again and embrace the mystery that is supping with the Lord Jesus!

The second thing is transcendence.  It seems that much of the Christian life is considered to be humdrum and boring.  But, oh, the supper is anything but.  It is in this supper that we enter into an experience with Jesus that is beyond us and takes from the normal and we enter into communion, into fellowship, into the presence of our Jesus with one another.

People want to know what is so different about the Christian life? Is it any different from being a good Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu?  Yes, in every way!  It is found in the transcendent reality of the supper.  The supper should bring us into an experience that changes us and draws us into a passionate and emotional and physical and spiritual engagement with our Jesus.  With the one who really died for us.  With the one who looked at our sin and our turning away and went to the cross anyway.  With the one who conquered death and thereby made us conquerors too.  With the one whose love for the Father led him to that cross.  With the one who sits at the right hand of his Father and intercedes for us. This is the transcendent reality that the Christian alone can experience as he or she eats and drinks with the Lord at his table.

Mystery and transcendence.  These two things have been lost in our churches, our culture, and our world.  They have gone the way of the dinosaur.  It is in the Supper that we can reclaim them, reengage with them, and get lost with them again.

If you want a great picture of getting lost in the mystery and transcendence of the supper grab a copy of the Dawn Treader by CS Lewis.  The interaction with Aslan and Lucy in the house of the Magician is amazing.

Tim, I know that this barely scratches the surface.  I can hardly put all this into words. I am still processing and am thankful you keep pushing and drawing me deeper.

Communion…I think it’s a big deal…

As I begin to write this I am feeling a bit like I am walking on sacred ground.  In the Protestant tradition we only have two sacraments: communion and baptism.  I have been thinking a great deal about the role of both. As I mentioned before communion is on the top of my mind because I just finished reading a book about it by Robert Letham. It was fantastic!

First, what I am not going to do.  I am not going to argue for the merits of the Reformed version (read Calvin’s) of communion.  I will leave that to the places where it has been dealt with in full.  If you want to know the differences between Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed understandings check out Letham’s text or the Westminster Confession of Faith.

So, what’s the big deal?  We take communion once a month in our church and it’s a nice ceremony with saltine crumbs and a thimble of grape juice.  This is the consistent mode of taking communion in any church I have been in. I have witnessed Catholic mass and also Lutheran communion. There really doesn’t seem to be much difference in “how” we go about doing it. There are obvious differences in why and what it means.

So, it’s a nice ceremony.  The Elders always look good in their suits and the men and women who serve communion are very solemn. It’s nice.

But, is communion supposed to be nice? Is it supposed to be so solemn? Isn’t it supposed to be “communion” with the risen Jesus? If so, then so much of this ceremony seems to be a little askew from what it must really be.

Sitting in my chair I realized how individualistic communion is currently.  Think about the first “supper”.  The disciples and Jesus hanging out in an intimate setting, one of the boys even reclining on his chest.  They were in a circle.  They could see each other. They could smell each other’s nasty feet. I have been in a setting with college guys many times like this. My poor wife wouldn’t even go into our basement until I lit a match to “de-man” after Bible study.

I think that communion needs to be let loose. We need to realize what is really happening. We are coming into, entering into, the very presence of the risen Jesus. We take the “bread” and drink the “wine” and in so doing are united with Christ in community with other brothers and sisters in the body. I can’t see who is joining with me with Christ.

It’s me and Jesus.

This is not communion, not in its fullest sense.

In this culture we need to re-engage with the mystery, beauty, glory, and awe that communion necessarily is. We must elevate this sacrament back to its high, honorable, and lofty place.

It is mystical.

It is awe inspiring.

It is fearsome.

It is physically, emotionally, spiritually uniting with our Jesus.

Why don’t we use real bread? It’s inconvenient.

Why don’t we use real wine? It might be offensive.

Was the crucifixion convenient? Was Jesus blood spilled not offensive?

The “supper” is to bring us together to experience community with one another and with Christ. I think we need to move back into a mode of doing communion where we actually see each other. Where we rise and go to the front together. Where those under discipline can’t hid in their chair. Where the one outside the faith feels being left out. Where those in relationship with Jesus physically rise and stand shoulder to shoulder with their brothers and sisters.

Our covenant children watching and experiencing the longing to rise too.

The weight of glory as we together break bread and drink the wine. We would touch the broken bread.  We would smell aroma of the wine and feel the warmth in our bellies as the wine hits.

In a culture that sees through the bull it is time that we return and embrace together the beauty and holiness of communion.

Think about it this way: What must communion have been like in the first century when the faithful were accused of being cannibals (eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus) and of practicing incest (for they were ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’) in the midst of their love feasts? Our communion doesn’t inspire this kind of response from a watching world.

I pray that we will embrace communion: the uniting of ourselves as the body of Christ with our head, the risen Jesus.

Phase two…

So, I have been writing a bit about the big picture of what missional is and exploring some things here and asking questions. Most of these questions I don’t have answers for, it’s a bit frustrating for a guy who usually has answers for EVERYTHING!

It’s hard to be in a place where you feel like everything is up for grabs.  Where you are evaluating so much of what you believe and what you think.  It’s good though because I am realizing how little I know and how little really matters.  But, the things that do matter are critical.

In light of all this, I want to take a bit of a detour.  I have been thinking a bit about two issues that seem to me as very important for our time.

Communion.

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Baptism.

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It seems that both of these issues are ones that either have been forgotten about (communion) or are taken for granted (baptism).  Over the next couple of weeks or so I am planning on wrestling through why I think these two things are critical for recovery in this generation as we seek to engage with our God in his mission.

I just finished reading The Lord’s Supper by Robert Letham, so I will take up Comunion first and then Baptism.

Who leads this whole thing?

The one questiont that I have been wrestling with in conversation with a friend and as a result of reading The Forgotten Ways is the issue of authority.  What does it mean?  Who is in authority? Is there leadership anymore? What does it all look like in reality, right here, right now? Are we all to do what is right by our own personal hermeneutic? Are we simply to do what feels good?  Is it “just Jesus and me”? What is the role of the community of God’s people? What are the individual roles within that body?  Are some called to lead?  Are some called to follow? What do we do with the Bible? What do we do with our heritage of the visible church?

The answers are not easy in coming.  But the list of questions continues to grow. Check out our conversation here.