eucharist experiences – the paradox of belonging to the alternative community

February 11, 2008

In a weeks time I’ll be preaching on the public worship, welcoming the strangers into our church services, and the role of public worship in mission, so I might be blogging on this a few times during the week. But to start out, some experiences from yesterdays eucharist.

I wasn’t preaching, only attending church. I came late, which is not a funny thing in our congregation. I don’t understand it, but for some reason this community accept that a lot of people would only be coming in by 9 o’clock, which is the time theĀ service is starting. When time came for the eucharist two things happened.

  • Where I sat, I could hear a dad and a child talking. The child was asking if he could join in the eucharist, but the dad said no. He said that the child could join when he was 16. In our congregation children are allowed to participate in the eucharist, although it’s still up to the parents.
  • Two rows in front of where I was sitting, a couple of children from the children’s home was sitting. They were about 9/10 years old, and when the wine came around, I could see that this was a big thing for them, and could just imagine little boys nudging each other about the fact that they are now going to drink some wine.

I wondered which was worse? The boys taking part in the eucharist, but not really understanding what it was about, or the little boy who wanted to take part, but who was excluded because he wasn’t old enough yet. I’m pretty sure the excluded boy is further from the intention of the eucharist than the boys taking part, but not yet understanding the theological significance and what have you…

But eucharist is always a very intense experience for myself. And this was no exception. As the bread passed over my lips, and the wine went down my throat, I started thinking about the meaning of this. “What did eucharist mean to me today?” And sitting there, what I experienced was the question where I would have stood at the crucifixion. Would I have been part of the crowd shouting “crucify him”, or part of the disciples crying over what was happening? Would I have cried about the one who came to preach an alternative society, a society totally different from what I was used to, radically accepting people, radically inclusive, radically equal, or would I have rather been part of the voice that said that Jesus is making things uncomfortable, so maybe we should dispose of him.

I don’t say this to point fingers. I think all of us at times isn’t comfortable with what Jesus preached. The message was so radical, and is “Jesus is Lord”, the implications for my life is so radical, that at times I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with it, it really makes me uncomfortable. Still there was room even for those who doubted, for those who weren’t yet comfortable with how Jesus were doing things, yes, even people like myself was part of the disciples.

Maybe that is part of the paradox of my existence. I identify myself with a community, with the narrative of Jesus, although I can’t say I’m the best example of how Jesus would have done things. I’m part of the alternative community Jesus preached, I believe, although I still find myself uncomfortable with the radicality of what he said at times. I’m part, even though I’m still being formed, but I’m formed by being part.

Could this be another example of thinking about an “already/not yet” eschatology? This is a subject I’ll maybe touch upon another time, but if you look at the work of David Bosch, you’ll find this way of looking at eschatology. The kingdom of God is already here, it is now, but there is also tension, because it’s not yet fulfilled, it is in process of becoming, and will only arrive in it’s fullness in the future. Myself? Well, I’m already here, I’m already part of the alternative community bringing the kingdom about, but I’m also being formed, in process of becoming the person which would follow Jesus through all the uncomfortable and radical ideas he presented, and if I keep the tension, then I’ll only be following the radical way of Jesus in the future. Always the paradox… always the tension…

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