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Here’s a fragment from today’s work on a book about Holy Communion:

To what can we compare the Beloved Community of God? It is like an animal of the forest. It comes of its own accord. We cannot make it appear, and no amount of beating the bushes will flush it out. All we can do is prepare the optimal conditions: bringing what we have to share, risking vulnerability to the other, opening ourselves to the Spirit. If we are patient, and keep coming back, the creature may come near: standing silently at the edge of the firelight, bringing an awe-inspiring glimpse of a different world, joining our gathering just out of reach. Even then, we cannot capture the creature and display it whenever we want. There are no sacred words or gestures that will command it to return. All we can do is keep returning to prepare, keep doing our part, knowing that this beautiful, unpredictable creature is out there, somewhere beyond the first line of trees. In this way it is the creature who trains us for communion.

 

photo: outsideonline.com

Check out Naomi Shihab Nye’s short story about her experience of community forming across boundaries at an airport gate in Albuquerque.  She understands that there is something sacramental about sharing food with people who had been “other” just moments before.  What struck me as I read the story is that the situation she describes wasn’t just like a sacrament, it was the kind of startling, numinous experience of community and sharing that lies at the heart of Jesus’ ministry of meals. It may be that the moment in the airport she describes was actually more sacramental that many of our eucharistic rites.

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http://davidkanigan.com/2014/11/16/gate-a-4/

About a year-and-a-half ago I wondered out loud in another blog about the possibility of some kind of flash mob communion.  I’m not trying to claim credit, but I was delighted recently when a group of clergy tried what they called a flash communion at the General Synod of the United Church of Christ.  As you can see from the video, they set up a table in the lobby of the convention center where the event was taking place, and held a communion service for anyone who wanted to participate.

I wasn’t around t participate myself, but was glad to see someone trying such things out.  I talked to Michelle Torigian, one of the pastors who helped lead it, and she said that when they had a large group gathered it worked pretty well, but when they tried to take the elements down to the lower level of the convention center and share them (in pairs, without the large group), people where much more hesitant and suspicious (“What is this?”  “Are you ordained?”).

Of course, this communion service was held in a context where pretty much everyone was a practicing Christian from the same denomination.  This was public in one sense, but in another it was within the boundaries of an a event for which people had to register (and pay).  I continue to wonder what a flash communion would need to be like if it were truly in public, in a location where people of all stripes might be present.

My own research and worship life are leading me toward the conviction that most, if not all, communion services have lost or covered over a crucial practice: a kind of worshipful sharing (not distribution) that participates in an epiphany of the realm of God.  After watching this video, I wonder even more about the possibilities for some kind of flash mob food sharing event, that does not proselytize in a pushy way, but does try to move toward something holy.  If people felt duped into participating in something that turned out to be a Christian practice, I doubt they would respond favorably.  If, however, they had a positive, spontaneous experience of sharing food and connected that with an invitation to something deeper, would that work?  Would it have something in common with some of the meals Jesus shared with people?  Could it be sacramental?  Would it be Holy Communion?

Julio DiazThis story is a couple of years old (March 2008), but it’s just so rich and thought-provoking that I wanted to collect it here and share it.  It’s about how 31-year-old Julio Diaz took his mugger to dinner one night.  He was able to see through his own fear and his mugger’s bravado, and find someone in need.

I’m particularly struck by the way in which Diaz uses the sharing of a meal in this story.  It seems to contain something that was central to Jesus’ ministry, and has been lost in our practices of Holy Communion.  Something about crossing boundaries, and actual sharing.

This story didn’t have to happen this way.  If you’ve got a minute, listen prayerfully and consider why it did.  Someday, I’d like to write “The Ballad of Julio Diaz.”

A Victim Treats His Mugger Right : NPR.

What are they getting that we’re not getting?  Jorge Munoz and his family serve homeless people out of their own kitchen every day.  They started five years ago.  Munoz received an award from President Obama, and has been nominated as a CNN hero.  He says his mom (who plans the meals he shares) taught him that if you share, you’re all right with God.

Why sharing is a beautiful thing – CNN.com.

You also learn more at Jorge’s website: anangelinqueens.org