I wrote about communion in the Wicker Park Grace e-newsletter this week. It’s so important that I want to repeat it here.
As a pastor, I have struggled with how to interpret communion and how to practice it in a community deeply committed to radical inclusion. In many times and places, communion has been interpreted as a boundary-marker between insiders and outsiders: those who are invited to eat the bread, and those who are not invited.
This is deeply ironic, given Jesus’s boundary-breaking meal practices for which he took so much flack. Insider/outside status was not a boundary that Jesus respected. He shared his table with anyone who would come and eat with him.
At the same time, I realize that the communion ritual has come to be an identity-marker for Christians. It’s something that Christians do. It’s a Christian practice. It ties us to a history, a lineage of people (some of whom we’d rather not be associated with, but that’s another story.)
How can we affirm, embrace, reclaim, reframe, the positive meanings of communion without reinforcing the negative ways it has been experienced? Unfortunately, the whole time we’re reclaiming and reframing, others continue to use communion as a marker of insider/outsider.
I can only hope that more and more communities will reframe and reclaim–that all of us will get better at articulating the intentional inclusivity of Jesus–in all that we do.
Here’s what I wrote in the e-notes:
Not everyone who participates at Wicker Park Grace
is a Christian, and we love that.
We are a community of learning, relationship, and hospitality.
At the same time, the spiritual practices we do
are Christian ones, and communion is a prime example.
We pass the bread from one to another
as a sign of how God moves among us,
and to experience serving one another.
We share communion often so that we can build up
memories and patterns and symbolic resonances.
Our communion table is open
to all who seek to be nourished by
the presence of God in this
communal meal practice begun by Jesus.
There are many signs of our unity in community and this ritual meal is only one of them. The Latin etymology of the word communion means “fellowship, mutual participation, a sharing.”
In that sense, our community meal that we share every week after our spiritual practice is another form of “communion.” Our conversations, our book groups, our dinners at one another’s homes, these are all ways we practice communion.
Eating the communion bread
is not a sign of our separation from
those who do not eat it.
Eating the communion bread
is a sign of our commitment to love,
as Jesus did, across all barriers.
So if you eat it, love, and be loved.
If you don’t eat it, love! And be loved!