Tuesday, April 20, 2010

we ask the wrong questions

i've just finished reading "A New Kind of Christian" by Brian McLaren. he wrote it over a decade ago and in fact his most recent book is "A New Kind of Christianity" is next on my reading hit list. i think it has affected me profoundly already, particularly regarding the discussion we've been having in our church community regarding communion and the place of the other within the Christian church. if you want to read more about this then go ahead and read this.

i got into a brief discussion last night about the issue of communion as i walked with 2 beautiful women of God on our way home from a meeting. we discussed our recent communion discussion in our community and i quickly came to realize that i stood at a polar opposite position from one of these 2 women. she stated that we should remain true to the idea that communion is linked directly to baptism in our community because she believes they are linked. she stated that Jesus shared the communion circle with those who were closest to him for a reason and communion should be reserved for believers. she went so far as to say that we should create a new ritual involving everyone during worship and then we should return the eucharist celebration to our member's only gatherings.

i couldn't disagree more. i resisted the urge to argue because that is not the spirit that i want to portray in our community discussion since we work within a consensus model. instead, i listened but still, i disagreed with her position.

why is it that we concern ourselves with who's in and who's out? why ask the question? why wonder where a person stands in their relationship with Christ? is that any of our business? we don't decide in any way where a person's soul ends up so what's the point of putting all of these parameters on people in order to cubbyhole them as People of God or seeker or sinner or all of the above. by the way, the answer to the question, regardless of who is being cubbyholed is "ALL OF THE ABOVE". i don't care if it's a bishop or a prostitute standing in front of me asking for the grace of Christ present in communion. here my friend, have some grace. be at peace, be loved by Christ.

i won't ask; where do you stand brother? what's your relationship with Jesus sister? have you declared yourself as a disciple?

by asking for the elements you take a step of faith. by taking part you declare and if you're only looking for a piece of bread because you're hungry, then that's what you'll get. if you're looking for more ... because your spirit hungers ... then that's what you'll get.

so what of the connection to baptism? well, who connected it to baptism? the church did. not Jesus. i'm not saying there's anything wrong with that but if it causes someone to stumble in their attempt to get to God then i say get it out of the way.

what about the fact that Jesus shared the first eucharist with his friends? well, he also shared it with Judas so how do we exclude the stranger?

the more i think about the ministry of Jesus the more i see the importance of the relationship with the other, the seeker. Jesus pushed the boundaries of what was accepted for the sake of relationship. he continually played the role of the Good Shepherd and he left the 99 so that he could go out and find the 1 that was lost. he knocked down spiritual walls so that he could reach out and offer grace.

that's what i want to be doing too.

so you see, we ask the wrong questions. we're locked in our little cubbyhole and we can't see that grace should be available to all as they act in faith. the eucharist can be transforming if we let it so the questions we should be asking are no questions at all. the step of faith required is in the asking for the elements. i don't need to know where a person is on their spiritual journey, i only need to offer grace as it is present in the elements. let that act change lives instead of trying to force our cubbyhole on lives.

be blessed my friends. because you are.


Shen said...

This is one of the problems I have with organized religion, in general. There are so many ways to know God, and each of us knows what's in our own heart. I believe God will love anyone who seeks to know that love regardless of where they worship or what rules they follow on the way. We are all children of God, if we know we are. To me, that is the only rule there is... we must ask ourselves what we believe and then make that commitment to God - each in our own way.

shallowfrozenwater said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
shallowfrozenwater said...

Shen, thanks for coming by.
a lot of people have lots of problems with organized religion and i'm sorry for any of the issues that i create for anyone. i don't want to cause anyone to stumble on their journey. i do want to encourage you on your journey however and i have found great solace in the community where i reside and worship. part of my journey is related to journeying together so community is what has taken the place of "organized religion" in my heart.
be blessed.

Al said...

The first impression I had reading your post is how you value discussion and fellowship over ideas. I think that is awesome. The whole idea of safety in discussing ideas is something that has been lacking in many churches, and something that needs a lot of nurturing.

Second impression is perhaps not as important. I agree with your desire to make the grace of God as available as God does. OK, I guess that is just as important as the first.

Anyway, keep striving for the high road.

shallowfrozenwater said...

you're the man Al. i truly loved our conversations both online and face to face.

Lisa said...

Have you read Sara Miles' "Take This Bread"? She has some pretty radical thoughts on open communion, and it's one of the most powerful stories of encountering God at the communion table that I've ever read. Actually, it's just one of the most powerful books I've ever read. I'm partway through her newest book, and loving that one too.
In any case, I think you might like "Take This Bread"

shallowfrozenwater said...

i have not read it but i've been in enough conversations about it and read reviews of it to KNOW that i'd love it. it has been recommended to me for ... over a year now i guess. that goes to show how slowly i read.

and my lips keeping getting tired too.

craig said...

Haven't popped by for a while, Ian. Cool that you finished New Kind Of Christian. That book has opened the eyes of a lot of people... I am one of the ones that put McLaren in a Luther type postion of this New Reformation. (As opposed to the ones that call for his head).

You are a very thoughtful and wise guy (and I don't mean as in The Sopranos).

The question I often come up against in the whole communion discussion is: What are we protecting? And whose table is this anyway?
The whole connection of baptism and communion, as you said, was developed over time by the church. There are some great thinkers and people of faith that reasoned it this way - and I don't challenge them in that. Okay, wait, I guess I do. But only because we do not live in a static world - and to me the idea of opening the table, God's table, to all is perhaps something the world really needs.. right now.

That and love of course.

Keep writing and thinking my friend.


shallowfrozenwater said...

i love you too Craig. you're one of my pillars and my favourite guitar teacher.