Posted on May 26, 2016
Copyright © 2017 · All Rights Reserved · Liam Byrnes
Posted on May 26, 2016
Something of a wordplay occurred to me today. I think I have heard it somewhere before1, but maybe you haven’t and so, I’ll share it with you.
I’ve been thinking about the practice of communion/Eucharist/Lord’s supper and the common practice of reconciling to others within the body of Christ before engaging in it.
In a world where our Facebook-projections of ourselves can be the only selves we actually know, this practice of asking for forgiveness has fallen by the wayside. We are addicted to seeing and portraying the best version of ourselves to the point that we have become callous towards the impact of the unlovely parts of who we are.
We don’t only have barriers at an individual level but also in our communities too. Rarely is there enough love and common affection found in Christian communities that can allow someone to confess sin to another and not from then on somehow be held at arms length. In fact, confessing sin or offense to one another often seems positively impolite!
While I’m sure there are many causes in addition to the ones I’ve already mentioned, another challenge is our inability to understand where accountability or blame lies.
What is my part, what is their part? What is the fault of my nature or my nurture.
It seems like many of the sciences (neuroscience/psychology/sociology/psychiatry) are discovering impacts on our lives that lead us to believe that almost everything in our lives can be tracked back to something in our biology, our nurture and development, or our social conditioning.
All that being accounted for though, there is a clear need to simply take more responsibility for our own actions. This is why I think in the Lord’s Prayer we ask to be kept from temptation (our responsibility) and delivered from evil (a more external influence) and both of these areas need to be accounted for in our lives.
We humans can be ingenious at squirming our way out of simply reflecting on our action or inaction and saying sorry.
After considering the lack of interpersonal repentance in our communion times, I reflected on Jesus’ plain and simple words as he taught the disciples to encounter him through the plain and simple breaking of bread and drinking of wine around a plain and simple table.
“As often as you do this, remember me”
Remember me. Of course the most straight forward way to read this would be; ‘make sure you keep me in mind’, but there is also a word play possible that allows us to see another angle of what Jesus is encouraging here. Jesus is saying re-member me, put my members, another word used for all the parts of a body, put them back together.
Are we re-membering Christ when we participate in communion? Are we putting the body of Christ back together when we sit around his table? I wonder if that is part of his desire. That we would re-member, connect his parts so fully that we are mistaken for one body.
The imagery of one body is used often throughout Paul, but our endless fractures which originated far before the reformation certainly make us look like a dismembered corpse of a church at times. On a more local level it often does not look much prettier. Petty disagreements, mountain from molehills acting as arms-length barriers between us. Holding us back from the image we were gathered to create – the body of Christ.
A little while go I spoke about the church acting as the image of the invisible God, in the way that Colossians talks about Jesus. I wonder if we are obscuring the image because of our pride? Our desire to stand haughtily like parliamentarians across benches rather than family around a table. It’s incredible what diversity and disagreement within familys can be melted away by the simple act of a mealtime together.
In the practise of communion we are welcomed into the very presence of God, encouraged to envisage ourselves as caught up in the very dance of triune life. A common act that catches us up in the awareness of divine love. These are the times where we can perceive the love of God in ways that allow us to be hardy and alive enough to love our enemies. When we rarely practise communion and remember our inclusion in God’s inner life through Christ we are left as fragile ego’s reminiscent of Humpty Dumpty who struggle even to forgive our brothers and sisters nevermind our enemies.
Finally rather than a meditation on forgiveness from 30,000 feet I want to make some practical suggestions towards practicing forgiveness.
Forgiveness is hard, but it re-builds and restores relational connection which by any measure is the major impactor of quality of life. We are meant to be a people who give and receive forgiveness like breath. Not that the offenses are light or meaningless but that we are captured by our own lostness if all our sins were held against us, and out of the overflow of the grace and inclusion God has given us, who are we to withhold that from other.
Let us re-member Christ, who was broken and disfigured, dislocated and wounded for us to be reconnected to God and one another. One body has been broken so that we can venture into wholeness, and we need one another to be the picture of Christ that we are called to be.