Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Communion Part III

All this thinking about communion has my head in a spin and as you hopefully noticed, I didn't write Part III last week as I had promised. I'm no Biblical scholar by any means but here's the best I could come up with.

The Christian act of communion is based on the Last Supper where Jesus clearly said (or as clearly as we can determine by the witness accounts which have undergone countless re-tellings and re-writings) that the wine represented the "blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many." (Matthew 14:22-24 for example). In some accounts he adds "for the remission of sins." (Matthew 25:25-28).  In the Old Testament there is also mention of the life blood given for atonement. (Leviticus 17:11).

There were several covenants in the Old Testament including those with Abraham (through which God promises to make his people God's people and to make Abraham a conduit for God's blessings), Noah (God promises never again to destroy the world [I guess he knew we could do that on our own], Moses (between God and the Israelites, includs the Ten Commandments), and David (establishes his family as heirs to the throne of the nation of Israel).

The last is the New Covenant which was made through Christ at the Last Supper Seder.The wine is drunk four times at a Seder (to represent the four promises) and it is thought that it was while drinking the third cup (redemption) that he said the words that preceded his death and establish that death as an act to save our souls.

After reading the Bible about the reason that Jesus shared the wine and his new covenant, I'm wondering if I should partake in the future.  I'm thinking that no amount of re-visioning the ritual to make it my own makes it right for me to participate. Because the very basis of the ritual--a belief that I am a sinner who cannot save myself--is contrary to my thoughts these days.

I know I'm flawed.  The divine knows I'm flawed. But I do hold a glimmer of hope that I will redeem myself in tiny ways until I'm the best ME I can be. The basic tenets of the Christian religion--Love God, Love Yourself, and Love Everybody Else (thanks, Al Green!) work for me as a simple guidepost to living. And if I use tools of the faiths like meditation, contemplative prayer, community, works, and studying to move myself along then I'm probably on the right path.

Thanks for reading along as I muddled through.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Communion Part II

(This is a photo of the way sunlight transformed the shadow of a glass.)

Before I go on with my thoughts about communion, I want to point out that all of us believers in a Truth pick and choose.  Even the most Bible-adherent people I know ignore parts of the Old Testament.  I am no different; I have chosen the parts of the Story that work for me, that make me feel I'm on the journey to being the BEST ME I can be.

That being said, here goes:

The minister said that all were welcome at the Table.  No restrictions.  So I felt encouraged to explore over the next few minutes whether I would participate and why.

I do not see myself as a worthless sinner.  I see myself as someone made in the image of the Divine, trying through all spiritual means possible to get to my truest expression of that image.  I study, I meditate, I participate in communities where I can explore my thoughts and goals.

In the past, I had come to think of communion as a way of confessing my sins and starting over. The way I could think of it now was that every time I take the bread and the wine, I make a commitment to continue in my attempts to shed the parts of me that aren't working and nourish the parts that I want to be stronger.

The bread is a symbol of the body of Christ the liturgy says.  If I eat the bread as this symbol, then I become a part of that Body.  I believe that Christ taught us how to live, and so if I take his teachings seriously, make them a part of me, then I will be on the right path. I will also be a part of a larger body of people moving in this direction.

The wine is a symbol of Christ's blood.  Again, by taking this wine, I am making His heart, his life-blood a part of me.

In its broadest sense, the word "communion" means "intimate fellowship." Specific to the church it is a "Christian sacrament in which consecrated bread and wine are consumed as memorials of Christ's death or as symbols for the realization of a spiritual union between Christ and the communicant" (Miriam Webster Dictionary).

"This is the body (and blood) of Christ given for you," the celebrants said as they gave me the bread and wine.  Both of them looked me in the eye and smiled. I felt renewed.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Communion Part I

Over the years I've been writing this blog, I've talked a little about my evolutionary spiritual life.  But for those who are relative newcomers, here's my church affiliation in a capsule:  Methodist for fifty-three years, member of the Unity Church for six years, not much going on for two years (although technically still a Unity member).

If I were to break down my spirituality into eras it would look like this:

Jesus Loves Me But God Can Be Really Mean Era (newborn to twelve)

Churches Have Rules and You Have to Obey Them to Get to Heaven Era (Confirmation to eighteen)

Church?  I'll Go to Chapel on Wednesdays and Only Because It's Required Era (Meredith years)

I Sure Hope God Isn't Really Watching Me All the Time Era (young adulthood)

We Need to Go for the Children Era (thirties and forties)

Hmmm.  I Might Need to Rethink This Religion Thing Era (fifty to present day)

Two things have remained important to me through all these years: the music and the community.  I love every song that is ever sung in church and I enjoy the company of fellow travelers on the path to...whatever we're on the path to.

Two things that I have wanted to leave behind are the fact that churches are by necessity businesses and there's a lot of talk and pressure about money, and the image of myself as an unworthy person who is incapable of becoming Christ-like without the 'shedding of blood.'

So now we get to the picture above.  Please try to ignore the good-looking guitar player on the right and look over to the left of the photo where you will see a table laid out for communion.

I've been going to the night service at my old Methodist church (where I was a member for twenty-five years) because I am a great admirer of the guitar player and the Fairmont Gospel Revue, a band that has been playing at that church for about fifteen years.  On this particular Sunday, I was jarred by the presence of The Table.

Next week I'll tell you about my thinking over the next thirty minutes of that service and what I did about my dilemma of whether to take communion or not. Then the week after I'll share some of the research I did about communion so I could better understand the deep roots and evolutionary meaning of it.

Stick around.  I hope it's going to be interesting!