[Creative commons image courtesy of freefotouk. Communion elements from this year's Baptist Assembly in the UK.]
Last night I read Nadia Bolz-Weber's (aka The Sarcastic Lutheran) blog post about "taking the Eucharist to Denver International Airport at 10pm on a Wednesday" and felt an urgent need to respond. Here i s what came from that.
So, here's the gist of the story: One of the fabulous folks from House for All Sinners and Saints, an emerging Lutheran church in Denver, was denied the sacrament of communion in her parents' church, so other HFASS-ers met her at the airport with the bread and cup. For them, it was of utmost importance to be at the Denver International Airport late on a Wednesday night and offer the gifts of God to their sister, reminding her of the wideness of God's welcome, of the depths of God's love, and of the presence of God as close as food on her tongue.
"This is how they will know that you are my disciples: that you take my body and bloody to their airport," Nadia wrote. "Amen?"
Amen! I thought. Because for me and for so many people communion matters so very much.
Why? Because for almost every Wednesday for a semester, the experience of receiving communion brought a good friend to tears, having been denied the sacrament her entire life. Since she refused to participate in the political games around baptism, which too many times designates "insiders" and "outsiders," she had never been welcomed to the table.* And now here in a small gathering of students were people offering her the body and blood of Christ, the bread of life and cup of salvation. Just like that. No games. Just gifts.
Communion matters because, through text and tradition and mystery, these common elements are gifts to all people to share the reality of God's love for all people.
ALL people. The REALITY of God's love for ALL people.
Now, I'm not talking about some hippy-dippy fantasy where God is the dispenser of saccharine smiles and pats on the head. And I am so not talking about the fantasy where God "loves" people on the condition that they change who they are to behave and look like, say, White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Or, those who believe in "family values." Or, heterosexuals folks. Oh, hell no!
No, I'm talking about the wild, crazy, grace-filled REALITY of God feeding broken, imperfect, beautiful people who are made in the image of God. I'm talking about the vibrant imagery through which text and tradition and mystery portray God's promises of new life and freedom from oppression: imagery like a table weighed down with a banquet set for the entire human family; a table of friends celebrating the feast of liberation, even as betrayal and state-sanctioned murder are immanent; of a body broken like bread, in need of healing.
ALL people, not just the ones with a "stamp of approval," either from me or the Church or even God-- because the immeasurable favor of God that is present in the death and life of Christ is so much deeper and better, assuring us of God's love and demanding us to be accountable to our participation in ways of injustice and violence. When the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts says to Philip "Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?" the intent is to joyfully make known the reality of God's loving action--God's allying with humanity-- through Jesus, not to seek approval or sanctioning or "fire insurance."
And how much more grace-filled could this image be: broken and beautiful people offering God's gifts to their sisters and brothers, siblings of every racial make-up and ethnicity, of every language and immigration status, of every gender identity and expression, of every sexual orientation (or asexual orientation!), of every physical size and shape and ability, of every degree of faith-- faith in Christ or faith in something else that brings them to the table hungry. How grace-filled, that broken people can be part of the giving of God's love, in an airport or in a college cafeteria, or in a rented multipurpose room-turned-sanctuary, or in a coffee house.
Thanks be to God.
For another response to Nadia's blog post, check out the poem another HFASS-er wrote.
[A creative commons image courtesy of six million dollar dan. I wish I saw peanut butter portraits of Jesus more often.]
*A note: Just because communion is out-of-this-world-yet-totally-IN-this world beautiful doesn't mean that there aren't hang-ups. My same friend who cried still chooses not to take communion in churches where the only fruit of the vine is alcoholic wine (we use non-alcoholic wine in our worship services on campus) or when only "the baptized" are invited to partake. I realize that these two things are very precious for many people living as faithfully as possible to their experiences of God in text and tradition and mystery. But I don't pretend to understand why. If anyone would like to articulate why this is true for them, please do. Grace and peace and thanks.