Saturday, 9 March 2013

Communion - The last holy grail to be demolished?

Church is not a building you go to on Sundays, it is a living organism made up of a community of believers. No more calling people into the centre to build an empire, instead the dispersal into natural community.
There is no clergy laity split. No sacred secular division. Tithing is exchanged for generosity.
There are no rituals that get you closer to God and no sacrifice left for sin. The enemy has been defeated and you don’t need deliverance, you need to be reminded of your true identity.
Leadership is not a ‘more anointed than you’ dictatorship, it is the fellowship of believers in equality with, if needed for a time, some servant led leadership. No more advancing up pyramid structures of church and no more looking at women as inferior.
From ‘come and get what I’ve got’ ministry lines to a ‘come and get nothing’ because I’ve just preached the gospel and you know you’ve been given everything in Jesus.
Fire tunnels to impart the Holy Spirit now changed to identity tunnels reminding people who they are in Christ and they too carry the fullness. No calling out the special people to make the tunnel because they have ‘more’ than those going through it.
No more prophetic words of doom and gloom and instead pointing back to the cross before encouraging the future.
And yet even with all this discovery of what church is and is not, and what Jesus has already done for us, why do we enact communion in a way that speaks of something we’ve declared dead religion?
I understand in places where there has been no journey away from clergy laity distinctions or there is still a belief that some people are more anointed than others, that there will be no change in how communion is undertaken but in places where there is a clear belief that nobody is more anointed than another, that there is no need for a priest, as we have one priest in Jesus, that communion is a place of remembering the truth of Jesus’s sacrifice and the ending of the old covenant, I think those truths should manifest in how communion is experienced. So instead of a religion soaked ritual, we could experience intimacy in sharing the bread and wine with Jesus and with each other, where it brings life to our bones and joy to our spirits.
As it stands in the majority of gatherings of Christians, when it is ‘communion time’ there seems to be a whole mumbo jumbo world that manifests. The ‘special’ ministers prepare the bread and wine, often with the ‘special’ table cloth, the ’special’ plate and the ‘special’ cup/glass/goblet. There might be ‘special’ prayers said over the bread and wine, making the whole moment much more holy than if they hadn’t said the prayer or got the special equipment out. For ‘special’ read ‘holy’. Then the people queue up and are handed a wafer or bit of bread, rarely are people allowed to touch the bread themselves because they are not anointed enough to do so, they might be handed a bit but not be given the whole loaf as that might contaminate it and when it comes to the wine there’s no chance of prising that goblet out of the anointed persons hand. They grip that thing like you’re gonna run off down the aisle and sell it to ‘cash for gold’. A whole world of ‘us’ holy people and ‘them’, the not so holy or anointed ones. Another display of division in the gatherings, a distinction between the clergy and the laity, not so named in less traditional churches but clearly demonstrated nonetheless. As soon as there are only certain people allowed to distribute the bread and wine the clergy laity split is there. As soon as there is a set structure for how to ‘do’ communion it has lost its mysticism and purpose.
People shuffle along the queue not really talking as they are preparing themselves for this holy moment, very solemn, very organised, very weird! Anybody walking in would think they’d entered a zombie apocalypse.
To me it is a massive display of the distance between the individual and Jesus, the need for a priest to assist you with communion, to stand in between you and God, to ‘do’ something to the bread and wine because they are more specially anointed than you. There’s delay to the communion whilst you stand in the queue, waiting for your ‘holy communion’ moment.

Instead it could be a beautiful opportunity for us to have a keen awareness of our inclusion in the death and resurrection of Jesus. To have a moment of intimacy to remember who we are, our true identity, as co-crucified with Christ and to partake in a meal of remembrance and mystery.
We live in relationship with Jesus and in this relationship Jesus is sharing his own communion with his Father and Spirit with us. There is intimacy and no third party standing in the gap between us. Communion reminds us that the veil is torn and we have full access to God.
The Last Supper was the Passover meal, the time of friends and family gathering around a table, sharing their history and their redemption, their rescue from slavery, a celebration of God’s goodness and faithfulness. It was at this meal Jesus declared a new covenant, a new moment to remember and not just for the Jewish people but for all people. He was going to sacrifice his body as the Passover lamb to be the final sacrifice for sin, to take his place as the one High Priest. He told them to remember. He is the bread of life, the sustainer of life, he is the substance of life and by breaking bread together we remember his supremacy, his sacrifice and his love intent towards us. The moment shouldn’t be rushed by the time constraints of a meeting but enjoyed as part of the rhythm of the community.
Paul included instructions regarding communion during meetings, that have been taken to be legal requirements, people become fearful of taking communion when not in full unity with everyone around them as if the bread will become poison to them because they were disrespectful. Paul was trying to guide them into taking communion in a way of belief, bringing life to your body through the belief in all the bread and wine represents. As usual Paul is trying to help the churches understand a mystery of faith in the sacrifice rather than warning them that God would be angry with them and punish them for getting it wrong. Once again Paul’s words are taken without any reference to the rest of the paragraph or the letter, or who he’s writing to or any of the other things he said, or Jesus said or what the rest of the bible said and so a whole doctrine is built up on a few sentences which are then used for creating a controlled clergy led ‘something’. I am sure that people do engage with Jesus during communion regardless of how controlled or religious it has become but I’d really like to see another holy cow shot and allow people the liberty to commune without the third party intervention or special meetings or special utensils.
And finally a repeat from an early blog called ‘shot glasses’. To hold a shot glass with some red wine in it, to ponder its contents, to smell it, to taste it slowly, reveling it’s wonder….
Communion glass. The wine. Representing his precious blood poured out for me, redemption, rescue, love, hope, heaven’s best, he becomes my DNA, the unforced rhythm of walking with him, he is my song and my dance, he is my beloved and I am his. Here I have forgiveness and all sufficient grace. Here is unity with Jesus, full communion, true vine dwelling, and completeness.
To hold this glass is to hold eternity, he is the beginning and end. It represents the covenant, the relationship. No words or writing or testimony can fully explain this mystery it is an experience that can be spoken of but not explained.

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