by Elias Blum
I’ve been challenged by this article on weekly communion from ‘Internet Monk’, and I think we need to embrace an active theology of communion and restore its place in what might, for want of a better word, be called progressive christian liturgy.
This might start with four strands:
(1) Communion is an act of defiance and solidarity. In the symbol of blood, we remember sacrifice and struggle, and are brought face-to-face with the fact that the way of non-violent resistance against domination and injustice to which we have committed ourselves often leads to torture and death. It is a call to remember those who now languish unjustly in jail, the captives who are still to be set free. In communion, we express our belief in liberty.
(2) Communion is a foretaste of the future. By our open table, we unite around our common human condition and proclaim our passion for the loving restoration and graceful reconciliation of all things. In sharing our bread and wine equally and to all, we enact a better order, when all will share alike in the common bounty, and when ‘he gathers much will not have too much, and he who gathers little will not have too little’. In communion, we express our belief in equality.
(3) Communion is also a reflection of, and commitment to, community. Passing the cup and loaf is a sacrament of sharing and of compassion. For this, the communalism of the early church (Acts 2: 42-47), or maybe even the parable of the loaves and fishes, where everyone gave what they had to produce an abundance, is the model. In communion, we express our belief in fraternity.
(4) Communion is a physical process. In consuming real wine and real bread, we acknowledge that we are all part of an ecosystem, and that the basic needs of our lives are met from the earth which is put into our care.
All this is powerful stuff, and I think it ought to be given more emphasis in congregational life. Ideally, it need not only be a symbolic, ritualised, act. In the context of a progressive house church, for example, communion could take place in the form of an actual shared meal – like the Jewish sabbath meal – in which liturgy, hospitality, family, feasting and devotion are combined.
It can also be a moving, beautiful experience. I miss it.