Ascension day and the Eucharist

May 17, 2007

Today was one of those days where so much happened, I just don’t know where to start, and what to write, and especially how to sift through everything.I attended a conference with URCSA (Uniting Reformed Church of South Africa) today, help by there Northern Seminary. Attended mostly by there students, some of there ministers, some other members and myself. It was really a great experience. I met great people, and was really stimulated theologically.It started out with Klippies Kritzenger (Professor at UNISA) giving some thoughts on the Eucharist. I met him about two years ago at another church conference on church unity between the DRC and URCSA, and he shared some thoughts on how we can help the process of unity along by taking the eucharist seriously. Already then his thoughts struck me, but today it really dug into me, I hope.Some thoughts. If you were to read this, and attended today, please leave some of your own, although I doubt whether many that were there would read this.

  • When we celebrate the eucharist, we think of it as similar to the last meal of Jesus. This was a meal with his disciples, a “chosen” group in most of our views. But what if we were to change our view to see it in light of the meals Jesus took with people throughout his time on earth. With the sinners, with everyone, not only with a chosen group. Won’t we then have a more open experience, one where we can invite people to join, without playing the policeman that need to check whether they are OK the whole time.

  • The eucharist table is one that levels the playfield (at least, this is what it is supposed to be). Everybody coming to the meal do so as equals, this is what 1 Corinthians 11 also touch upon.

  • With the resurrection and ascension, the whole order of the empire gets turned around. The crucified one becomes king, it’s absolutely against the ideas of power inherent to our society. But this new Kingdom looks totally, it can be seen as an invitation to a table, to a meal.

  • Maybe a last random thought from what he said. Maybe the reason Apartheid could happen was because we didn’t have a good theology about community, and the communal meal.

I ended up attending the discussion group on “Becoming a missional congregation and the Lord’s meal”. At first I wondered whether the discussion group on issues like how and how often we present the eucharist might not be of more value, since I struggled to see how the eucharist can be connected with becoming a missional congregation, but how wrong I was.The kind of ideas coming from this session:

  • Christ didn’t only die for our sins, but for the salvation of the world. Jesus calls for change in society, for salvation from economic oppression. Why then do we still only speak of personal salvation in the Lord’s meal? Couldn’t we also speak of a God who gave his life, and rose from the dead, so that the poor and oppressed may be saved?

  • If we talk about introspection at the eucharist, why is it only a personal thing, where I check whether I’m clean enough for the eucharist. The eucharist needs to remind us to look outside of ourselves, at the people around us. Seeing those who cannot take part in the meal, and inviting them in, but also seeing the other tables in the world, and going out to make these tables similar to the eucharist table, where everybody is equal.

  • Prof Kritzenger told a story of how he attended a meeting in the years of the struggle where a chair was kept open at the eucharist table for Nelson Mandela, who was in prison at that time, and couldn’t attend. A very practical idea for us today. He told how, in the time of the Sheldean Human story, he brought a small plastic chair to the service that day, and put it at the eucharist table, as a reminder of all the children who should have been with us that day, but can’t.

Lastly. I met some great people. Vusi, we have seen each other, but I believe a beautiful road together started today. Paul and Tsidi, I love your enthusiasm! I loved talking to you. A new South Africa, a really united South Africa, and a church united, will need pastors like you. I can’t wait to see you people again. I hope we will organize some great conversations in the coming months!

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