BEING the body of christ...

I love being a part of a Eucharistic community - it puts life into perspective for me - and grounds my ministry in the essentials: BEING the body of Christ in the world. It can take a Reformed, Anglican or Roman Catholic style - and I tend to like the Anglican words the best - but ultimately it is the heart that matters and the heart is always centered in Christ Jesus.  I am indebted to Henri Nouwen and his insistence on celebrating Eucharist wherever he was living and working - and making certain that even if the bureaucratic church didn't welcome some believers, EVERYONE was a welcomed guest at the table of the Lord - because it can be life-saving.

+ In Cleveland I became a member of Jesus Caritas - a Roman Catholic community grounded in the way of Charles de Foucald - that celebrated a "ministry of presence" and beauty alongside the brokenness of the King/Kennedy housing projects.  Foucald expressed the soul of his vision as an oasis in the desert: What I am dreaming of is something very simple and small in numbers, something to resemble those simple communities of the Church’s early days. To lead the life of Nazareth, working humbly and contemplating Jesus, a little family, a little monastic household, something very small and simple. 

And like the Eucharistic community of Acts 2, this Cleveland chapter gathered daily for the breaking of bread and prayers before heading out to share compassion and a sense of Christ's presence wherever the Spirit led.  Over time - in cooperation with Habitat for Humanity - three city blocks had been transformed from urban blight to beauty - with a variety of urban gardens scattered among the restored houses.  And then every Thursday night we regrouped for prayer and Eucharist. It was the highlight of my week.

+ Later, I became affiliated with the Community of Iona - and made a pilgrimage to Scotland, too - to enter into their Eucharistic ministry.  And a highlight of that visit was sitting at table with believers from all over the world and being nourished by Jesus to become the body of Christ in the world.  Like Nouwen taught:  you are bread - taken, blessed, broken and shared - for the world.

Since Easter, we have been using a Eucharistic liturgy from Iona every Wednesday afternoon at 12:10 pm.  Sometimes 4 people show up, sometimes 10 - in this setting the numbers don't seem to matter - because "wherever two or three gather in my name, I am there in the midst of you."  I sense and experience Christ's presence every time we break the bread and share the cup.

Today I was able to get into the Sanctuary early and open the doors on to Park Square - get our sign out there, too - and it was a good thing.  For when I came back about 10 minutes later to light the candles and turn on the meditative music, a young man was seated in the last pew. He was quietly weeping.  When he was ready, he asked if it was alright if he just sat for a while in the quiet.  And after assuring him that he was always welcome - and preparing the bread and cup - I sat with him for a bit and listened to his story and shared his tears and a quiet word of prayer, too. 

Earlier this morning, another regular person at Wednesday Eucharist wrote to me wondering whether we might continue this gathering after Pentecost (our planned conclusion.)  My inclination was to keep it going no matter how many people came, but both her question and this young man's tears became a sign of confirmation to me that being the body of Christ like this mattered for this place at this time.

Many Protestants have an almost atrophied sense of Eucharistic spirituality - we are not a sacramental or incarnation people no matter what our theology suggests - so I've been tenderly teaching this crew to take BIG chunks of bread.  Make it a REAL feast so that you might taste and see the goodness of the Lord.  Today I asked them to drink from the cup - not dip a la intinction (which has its place) - but drink in the full goodness of the Lord.  As one friend said, "Really drinking - not just tasting - but filling my mouth with wine was a very sensual and powerful experience."  A body prayer I called it - and when another person talked about the earthiness of the chalice - this, too, was another body prayer.

This is a funny calling - and sometimes it seems as if "no good deed goes unpunished," right? But celebrating BEING the body of Christ in community puts everything into perspective.


Black Pete said…
You know, sometimes the discipline becomes the life, and there is no end...
RJ said…
That is soooo right... it is all connected and ALL about presence and compassion, yes?

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