Saturday, September 15, 2018

City Notes '18 Bonus | The Eternal Current: Practice-Based Gathering: Why We Receive Communion Together Every Week

Receiving weekly Communion with Emmaus City Church helps us return to Christ, over and over. It is in Christ and through Christ and because of Christ that we give everything for Christ and for the love and life of Worcester.

Today's notes are a bonus in order to reflect deeply on the importance of the Eucharist being central for Emmaus City's gathering as we practice following Jesus's words and walking in step with His Spirit together in all of life.

Chapter 5 | Church As a Gymnasium: A Practice-Based Gathering: Eucharist

The Eucharist (Communion or the Lord's Supper or the table or Mass) is the high point of the gathering. I encourage you to read Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann's book For the Life of the World and Father Ronald Rolheiser's book Our One Great Act of Fidelity to consider more about the mystery of what happens at the table that Christians have believed throughout history. If you are unfamiliar with the depth and richness of a Eucharistic theology (as I was), these books are like portals into a new world. Read them slowly, reverently, and with great joy.

But even more important than reading about Communion is receiving Communion. If at all possible, find a spiritual community that helps you receive Communion every week. Here are a few reasons to encourage you why:

1 | Receiving Weekly Communion Helps Us Return to Christ, Over and Over

With weekly Communion, no matter what else happens in the service, we land back in this central practice of the presence of Christ every week. After learning about lament, we bring our broken hearts into the presence of Christ. After experimenting with a new practice, we bring our destabilized selves into the presence of Christ. After celebrating God's goodness, we bring our overflowing gratitude into the presence of Christ. Rather than getting stuck in the concepts of information shared during a sermon or even in our own spiritual practice, we accept the invitation to bring whatever we're holding into the presence of the One who called us.

| 2
 | The Weekly Eucharist Reminds Us That a Practice-Based Faith is Not Ultimately about Practice 

It is in Christ and through Christ and because of Christ that we risky getting into the River (John 7:37-39; Ezekiel 47) at all. Communion helps us keep the main thing the main thing. All is Christ (1 Corinthians 8:6Colossians 3:11).

| 3 | Receiving the Eucharist Every Week Transforms Us into People Who Can Humbly Receive from God 

Early in the life of our faith community, Ian Morgon Cron, an Episcopal priest, taught on the heart, theology, and practice of the Eucharist. It was mind stretching and heart forming. At one point, he proactively declared, "Remember, friends, you never take Communion." In a surprised and uncomfortable silence, he smiled and whispered, "It can only be received. Taking is what happened in the Garden of Eden. But opening our hands to receive will put the world back together." This imagery has forever formed our community—both as we approach the table and as we approach the world. Week after week, as we humbly return to the table with our hands open, we learn how to receive from God. Slowly we are becoming people who can get out of our own way and allow God to bring whatever He may.

| 4 | The Eucharist Isn't the Ending but the Beginning

Roman Catholics refer to the Eucharist as the Mass, which is derived from the Latin word missa. Missa is related to the word mission and can be translated as "sent." The word Eucharist literally means "thanksgiving." Therefore, the Eucharist is a feast of thanksgiving that launches us into our mission in the world.

Deep Connection Between the Eucharist and Mission

The Bible's answer to this question is the Church. God's plan is to become present to the world in and through a people, and then invite the world to join with Him. How does this happen? In the simplest of terms, a group of people gather and become present to God. In our life together, we recognize God in the presence of Jesus Christ through disciplines in which He has promised, "I am in your midst." By knowing God's presence in Christ in this way, we are then able to recognize His presence in the world. We participate in His work in the world, and His presence becomes visible. The world then sees God's presence among us and through us and joins in with God. And the world is changed. This, I contend, is faithful presence. This is the Church. And this is how God has chosen to change the world.

While Fitch suggests seven disciplines that help us tend to Christ's presence (the Lord's Table, Reconciliation, Proclaiming the Gospel, Being with the "Least of These," Being with Children, Plurality of Diversely Gifted Leaders, and Kingdom Prayer), he begins with the Eucharist. We practice tending to Christ's presence at the table each week so that our eyes are opened to Christ's presence all week long.

Next post: City Notes '18 | Learning to Speak God from Scratch: Sin: A Mountain of Metaphors

Here are links to previous City Notes books:

2017 | Gospel Fluency; Moving Towards Emmaus; Evangelical, Sacramental, and PentecostalFaith Without Illusions

2018 | The Eternal Current Part 1 of 3The Eternal Current Part 2 of 3; The Eternal Current Part 3 of 3

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan

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