Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Happy Are Those Who Are Called To Share His Supper

When David and I were engaged, we knew we'd be getting married at my parents' parish in New York. To do this, we had to get permission from our own parish priest at the time. In our dealings with him, it was revealed that we were co-habitating, sharing the same apartment next to the insanely noisy R5 Regional Rail line. We were in love, getting married, and still clearly in violation of Church rules. He told us flat out that we shouldn't take Communion until we had moved into different apartments and confessed the sin of sharing the same bed. As David and I walked back to our apartment, I howled and railed at his audacity. "Fine," I said. "I get that there are 'rules' and he's obligated to inform us of them, but to say we can't receive the body and blood of Christ? Do you think Jesus would deny us a seat at his table?" Eventually I had to just let it go, but I didn't stop taking Communion. As soon as I was sure that letter was sent, we stopped attending that church.


I just finished reading a book called Take This Bread, and I really wanted to share a passage of it with whomever happens to read this. The book follows the conversion of a woman who was raised in an atheist family. On a whim one day, she walks into a local Episcopal church and takes communion. As her faith and knowledge grow, she feels called to heed the teachings of Jesus and feed the hungry. And so she does so, in a big way, starting a food pantry at St. Gregory's (her new church), and with some help from her community, is able to start food pantries in other locations nearby to feed to skyrocketing number of people who are unable to afford basic groceries.

It's an amazing spiritual memoir, and the author, Sara Miles, does a good job questioning why churches put up barriers to Communion.

Since this is Holy Thursday, and we celebrate the Last Supper, where Jesus broke bread and drank wine with saints and sinners -- both a man who'd deny knowledge of him three times and a man who'd betray him with a kiss -- I thought it appropriate to offer a meditation, via Sara Miles, on Communion.

"The entire and contradictory package of Christianity was present in the Eucharist. A sign of unconditional acceptance and forgiveness, it was doled out and rationed to insiders; a sign of unity, it divided people; a sign of the most common and ordinary human reality, it was rarefied and theorized nearly to death. And yet that meal remained, through all the centuries, more powerful than any attempts to manage it. It reconciled, if for only a minute, all of God's creation, revealing that, without exception, we were members of one body, God's body, in endless diversity. The feast showed us how to re-member what had been dis-membered by human attempts to separate and divide, judge and cast out, select or punish. At that Table sharing food, we were brought into the ongoing work of making creation whole. I read a commentary by Grant Gallup, a cranky liberation theologian and Episcopal priest who'd retired to Nicaragua. 'The little loaf-sharing church,' he wrote,' stole away from the neighborhood of Jerusalem Temple and the synagogues of the diaspora, hounded by a good imperial government to martyrdom for hundreds of years, and then, one day, found its bishops enthroned and basilicas built for it by emperors. It issues receipts and itemized its metaphysics. It created a dogmatic mind of Christ to supplant the flesh of Nazareth. But there was always and remains still the opportunity to make Jesus your friend, and to invite him to share your supper.'"

('But there was and remains still the opportunity to make Jesus your friend, and to invite him to share your supper.' Those words are so profound, I had to type them again, and though they don't belong to Sara Miles, I thank her profusely for quoting them and their author.)

This will be my last Holy Week post, as we are traveling to New York, so have a lovely Easter!


Lora said...

It was the priest who would not forgive you for living together, not Jesus.

I firmly believe (after struggling with the exact issue of cohabiting and sex before marriage and fighting with my heart and my family and even God) that as long as two people are living together in love, it is wholly and fully acceptable.

Who am I to judge or decide? Nobody, of course. But I just cannot find a rational (or Biblical) explanation why it is not okay.

Kelly said...

Lora, exactly. And in terms of who can receive Communion? I find so many things preposterous. (Sigh....)

Incidentally, the priest at the Church we were married at told us the same thing in terms of living together, though he never said we were required to confess (confess love?) or abstain from Communion.

mayberry said...

I've never thought about it in those terms of unity and division--very interesting. My very sweet grandmother-in-law, age 90, dropped a host at Communion many years ago and was so embarrassed she's never been back to church. So sad!

Happy Easter to you and yours too!