Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Sacred Meal

Our culture longs for community. It is more disconnected than ever, both emotionally and relationally. Churches don't often help the matter. That's a sad truth, because that means they're not performing one of their chief purposes. Fortunately, I think we are slowly moving away from the civic institution to the spiritual community. It may take generations, but the evangelical church will be rebuilt from the ground up.

This problem is acknowledged by Nora Gallagher in her work, The Sacred Meal. It is another volume in the Ancient Practices series, edited by Phyllis Tickle and published by Thomas Nelson. Gallagher, in my opinion correctly, identifies Communion as the central act of community in the Church.

I cannot tell you how important I think works like this are, not because I agree with every theological point. In fact, I have more than a few theological disagreements with this author. That doesn't matter. Orthodoxy has never come to a consensus on the sacred meal. We shouldn't be turned off by those who disagree with us.

This book is timely because evangelicals don't grasp the importance of communion, whether they believe in the real physical presence or only remembrance. The supper, when held in high esteem, brings renewal, both communally and individually.

The church where I grew up observed communion, or the "Lord's Supper," every quarter. They would say otherwise, but it was basically for the heck of it, because Jesus said we had to do it. In my opinion, that's completely ridiculous. This is a solemn privilege, not just a constraint. Communion is something we get to do. We don't need to do it every week, but this business of observing it only occasionally completely misses the point.

Additionally, ancient practices really speak to us. They come from a simpler time not bound so much by clock and schedule. They can lead us to a place when we are completely in the moment. That's the only place we can meet God. In a time when so many have completely lost a sense of spiritual reality, we can gain so much from rediscovering these traditions and their original significance.

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