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an (in)Version of Communion

Many churches normally celebrate communion on the 1st Sunday of the month.

This is not your average month however. There is a lot of hand-wringing about whether to do online communion … OR … utilize this Sunday as a ‘Lenten fast’ from communion until we are all together again physically.

It is amazing how ‘social distancing’ has challenged both our vocabulary and our metaphysics.

More about that in a future post.

I found a work-around or a middle-ground or a loop-hole:

It is call an (in)Version of Communion. I want to make it available to anyone who is considering celebrating the sacrament of communion with their online community.

Nerdy side-note: I totally get why ministers and church leaders may not want to say the same words that they always do when they do not fit the digital space when they are broadcasting from an otherwise empty room. So I changed the words.

This inverse communion does not start with with one loaf and one cup and then try and figure out how it can be virtually broadcast to the many. It starts with the many (breads and baked goods) and utilizes ‘words of instantiation‘ to make concrete the abstract or the theoretical.

I want to be clear: these are words of instantiation NOT the regular words of institution.

Something different is happening here.

We shortened it to 6 minutes.

Please see the PDF included here if you are interested, or read the words below and please let me know what you think. An (in)Version of Communion [edit 2]

An (in)Version of Communion:

Oh, beautiful and sacred divine, we greet you this morning in the knowledge that all life is in your loving care – for your Spirit’s presence is everywhere at all times filling all things with life and intention.

We give thanks this morning for the reality that in our various locations, separated by miles and social distance, that it is still true that it is in you in whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). The psalmist reminds us that there is nowhere we can hide from your presence (Psalm 149:7) and we confess that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8: 38-39).

You have given us the gift of your Holy Spirit who testifies within us that we belong to you (Galatians 4:6, Romans 8:16) and who unites us with the saints of the past who have walked this road of faith before us through various trials and tribulations.

Now come Holy Spirit and make us one across the miles and through this media of the digital web that now connects us. Transform, by your spirit of grace, our social isolation and distance into a holy community that is connected to each other by your sacred presence. Be near to us as we are separated from one another so that each of our kitchen tables (and coffee tables) may be mystically connected in communion to your table which unites us all.

We give thanks for this sacred ceremony in all of the ways it has manifested over the centuries.

We also give thanks for these elements that nourish and sustain us through difficult times and for the earth from which these ingredients came. For this bread (or baked goods) and for this cup (or mug) we give thanks and acknowledge that it is through elements like these that our mortal bodies are nourished, strengthened, and satisfied.

We take these as symbols and pray that they would be transformed from ordinary elements into signs that point us to the greater reality of your presence in the earth in all places and at all times.

[For the Beauty of the Earth v1]

May these humble offerings be transformed into symbols that participate in the reality that point to into signs of the life to come.

Normally we take the one loaf and we break it to serve the many. In doing so, we symbolize the significance of our unity as the body of Christ through remembering your body broken for us that in you we may be one. This morning we lift up our many pieces through this medium of social media and ask that in you the many would be one. Make this bread to be for us a sign of your presence with us, sustaining us and filling us with good things.

May this symbol remind us that in our brokenness we are to be bread for the world

[For the Beauty of the Earth v2 communion chorus]

On the night that Jesus took this cup, he lifted it and gave thanks–infusing it with new meaning. This cup represents the life and the love of Christ poured out. We give thanks for what is in this cup and for the earth from which these elements come. We are grateful for the vines and bushes and brambles which give fruit in due season and fill our lives with good things.

Normally during this ceremony, we proclaim that there is one cup and that it is filled with goodness and love poured out for the good of the many. This morning we ask the by the power of your presence our many cups would signify that we drink deeply of the good things of God and that they would help us to remember that we look forward to a day where we shall be together with all the saints for the great Thanksgiving and the banquet feast of the ages in your eternal presence.

Let them, Holy Spirit, remind us that our lives – like this cup – are filled with your goodness and grace so that our lives may be poured out in service to others.

As we take these elements into ourselves, make them be to us the body of Christ – as we remember that we are your body – and the love of God poured out for our good and the good of the many.

May every plate and every cup help us to remember your great love for us and for all living things.

We partake of these elements together through the medium of this digital communion and ask that you would unite us in heart through this great mystery of the ages – through the mediating presence of this online medium – that we are connected to each other into a holy communion of the people of God – a royal priesthood of all believers.

By the power of Spirit, the medium of these elements and the media of this digital space is transformed into a sacred ceremony of communion and thanksgiving across the miles from here unto eternity.

Let us celebrate together!  Thanks be God who transforms our humble offerings.

Christ’s body broken for you – the many are made one and transformed into the body of Christ.

The Cup of God’s love poured out for you – to fill you with good things as you pour out your life for the good of many and the transformation of the world.

Thanks be to God. Amen

#Online #Communion #Liturgy #Digital #Church

Online Communion Liturgy

We did an experiment this morning with digital communion. It has been a big adjustment for many people of faith to go to online church gatherings.

Many are finally adjusting to online community but were struggling with how we were going to observe the sacraments. How do you celebrate communion online?

Here is my first attempt at an online liturgy for communion. It took 11 minutes and so we are going to refine it down next week to about half the amount of text. In the transcript below (also available as a PDF at the bottom) I went ahead and highlighted the ‘inverse’ elements where the innovation happens.

Please feel free to utilize or adapt this if it would be helpful to you in your context. We will be doing Inverse Communion (the shorter version) next Sunday if you would to join us.

Online Communion Liturgy #Digital #Church

Oh, beautiful and sacred divine, we greet you this morning in the knowledge that all life is in your loving care. For your Spirit’s presence is everywhere at all times filling all things with life and intention.

We give thanks this morning for the reality that in our various locations, separated by miles and social distance, that it is still true that it is in you in whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). The psalmist reminds us that there is nowhere we can hide from your presence (Psalm 149:7) and we confess that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8: 38-39).

We rest in the assurance that we are your children and we receive the affirmation that we belong to you–your spirit testifies in our spirit that we have been adopted into your family (Galatians 4:6) and by your grace stand not just adopted but accepted, approved, and adored (Romans 8:16). You have given us the gift of your Holy Spirit who unites us with the saints of the past who have walked this road of faith before us through various trials and tribulations.

Now come Holy Spirit and make us one across the miles and through this media of the digital web that now connects us. Transform, by your spirit of grace, our social isolation and distance into a holy community that is connected to each other by your sacred presence. Be near to us as we are separated from one another so that each of our kitchen tables (and coffee tables) maybe mystically connected in communion to your table which unites us all.

We give thanks for this sacred ceremony in all of the ways it has manifested over the centuries. We give thanks for the ways that this Holy meal has transformed and evolved over the ages from a once a year Passover meal that Jesus took, blessed, broke, and shared with his disciples. We give thanks for all of those who have celebrated this sacrament throughout history in the form of the Lord’s Supper, a Love Feast, Eucharist, Mass, and Communion. We also give thanks for your divine presence in every place that we celebrate being the body of Christ this morning.

We also give thanks for these elements that nourish and sustain us through difficult times. For this bread (or baked goods) and for this cup (or mug) we give thanks and acknowledge that it is through elements like these that our mortal bodies are nourished, strengthened, and satisfied.

We take these as symbols of your provision and goodness and pray that they would be transformed from ordinary elements into signs that point us to the greater reality of your presence in the earth in all places and at all times.

[For the Beauty of the Earth v1]

May these humble offerings be transformed into symbols that participate in the reality that point to into signs of the life to come.

We give thanks for this bread and for the earth from which these ingredients come in humble acknowledgment that we are a part of your loving creation and that as these elements are rooted in the earth that our very life is dependent on the goodness of creation. You created all things good and we are a part of that creation. We pray this morning for those who work in the fields and the farms across to this land and pray that they would know your presence this morning in a significant way during this crisis.

Normally we take the one loaf and we break it to serve the many. In doing so, we symbolize the significance of our unity as the body of Christ through remembering your body broken for us that in you we may be one. This morning we lift up are many pieces through this medium of social media and ask that in you the many would be one. Make this bread to be for us a sign of your presence with us, sustaining us and filling us with good things.

May this symbol remind us that in our brokenness we are to be bred for the world and to care for those who hunger physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, relationally, politically, economically, and environmentally.

[For the Beauty of the Earth v2 communion chorus]

On the night that Jesus took this cup, he lifted it and gave thanks–infusing it with new meaning. This cup represents the life and the love of Christ poured out. This cup symbolizes the heart of God, spilled would love for all creation. We give thanks for what is in this cup in for the earth from which these elements come. We are grateful for the vines and bushes and brambles which give fruit in due season and fill our lives with good things.

Normally during this ceremony, we proclaim that there is one cup in that it is filled with goodness and love poured out for the good of the many. This morning we ask the by the power of your presence our many cups would signify that we drink deeply of the good things of God and that they would help us to remember that we look forward to a day where we shall be together with all the saints for the great Thanksgiving and the banquet feast of the ages in your eternal presence.

May these symbols remind us of the power of transformation. We give thanks for the grapes and blossoms and berries and beans that are transformed from one state into another and that as they are brewed and steeped and stewed that they become elements of refreshment and celebration.

Let them, Holy Spirit, remind us that our lives – like this cup – are filled with your goodness and grace so that our lives may be poured out in service to others. We lift up those in need this morning and those who are pouring out their lives in service to our hurting world at this time.

 

God of grace and mercy we ask that you transform these humble elements from mere reminders into a symbol of your presence with us and a sign of your life in us as we take these elements into ourselves. Make them be to us the body of Christ – as we remember that we are your body – and the love of God poured out for our good and the good of the many.

Holy Spirit we asked that by the power of your presence that we too would be transformed from the many into the one that the world may hear of your love and the good news of redemption for all creation. Until we eat and drink together again enjoying with all the saints throughout the ages and around the planet may every plate and every cup help us to remember your great love for us and for all living things.

We partake of these elements together through the medium of this digital communion and ask that you would unite us in heart and intention so that in every place and at all times your presence is manifest on the earth.  We make ourselves available to this great mystery of the ages – through the mediating presence of this online medium – that we are connected to each other into a holy communion of the people of God – a royal priesthood of all believers.

In God the many are one.  In Christ the loved of God is poured out for the good of the whole world. By the power of Spirit, the medium of these elements and the media of this digital space is transformed into a sacred ceremony of communion and thanksgiving across the miles from here unto eternity.

 

Let us celebrate together!  Thanks be God who transforms our humble offerings.

  • Christ’s body broken for you – the many are made one and transformed into the body of Christ.
  • The Cup of God’s love poured out for you – to fill you with good things as you pour out your life for the good of many and the transformation of the world.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

____________________

If you have questions, comments, or suggestions email VHUMCpastor@gmail.com

Digital Communion Liturgy [PDF]

 

Consider the Crows

One tradition I really like surrounding communion, is that you never throw the bread in the trash or pour the cup down the drain.

Once the bread and cup have been blessed, you are supposed to return them to earth from which they came.

I love this imagery. It helps me to think about the grain that became the flour for the loaf and to think about the vines rooted in the earth that brought forth the grapes.

I do this, not in a superstitious way, but in an earth-honoring way.

This month something cool happened. As I was walking the elements out to the garden, I noticed a large group of crows in the trees all around me. They seemed very intent on what I was up to.

No sooner had I scattered the bread around the yard and retreated to the building, they descended in mass.

It brought a big smile to my face. I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’ famous lesson that says “consider the birds of the air …” (Matthew 6:26)  They don’t sow or reap and yet God provides for them.

 

I was at an event yesterday where the opening meditation was supposed to be something about how nature teaches us to trust and that by connecting with nature we come back into balance.

I kept thinking about the crows. I am grateful that we have traditions built into our practices that point us back outside, that don’t allow us to sit inside and to waste time and material.

I like that spiritual practices ask something more of us.

My prayer for you today is that the falling leaves, shorter days, and cooler nights would awaken something in you – make you aware of something. Consider the crows …

Sacraments As Enacted Parables

Here is a way of thinking about sacraments that is congruent with the 21st century because it takes seriously both the way that the world works and the way that words work.

  • Baptism is an embodied metaphor
  • Communion is an enacted parable
  • Weddings are performed symbols

Let’s be clear about the difference between a sign and a symbol.

A sign is a signifier that points to a reality beyond itself. A symbol is much bigger – it is a sign that participates in the reality that it points to.

Sacraments are enacted symbols. In this way, they are both signs that point to a greater reality and they are performed signifiers that can never fully reveal or contain the antecedent they are attempting to signify. Sacraments are both significant artifacts of the church and they are gifts and graces (charis) that both form and inform our faith and practice.

In this sense, sacraments are symbols that participate at some level in the reality that they point to. When we are at the table, we are re-membering the body of Christ as the members of the body. It is beautiful symbolism. When we stand in the waters of baptism we have entered the body – like the waters of birth, we are now born of both water and spirit. The same is true for the wedding ceremony – the two become one in the company and community of witnesses. Wearing a wedding ring is an enacted-embodied-performed symbol.

Sacraments and corporate worship are then a parable of the kin-dom. Jesus used parables (not earthly stories with heavenly meanings but earthy stories with heavy meanings) to slide underneath the listener’s defenses in order to interrogate the ‘way things are’. Jesus did this to subvert the unjust status quo and turn upside-down the listener’s presumptions about the way things are and the way that God wants them.

Said a different way: Parables are often misunderstood. Not just the meaning of the parable – those are often elusive – but the very nature of parables.  Many have been told that parables are ‘earthly stories with heavenly meaning’. This is not true!

Parables are better thought of as ‘earthy stories with heavy meanings’. We error when we think that what Jesus was talking about was pie in the sky or the great beyond.

Parables cause the listener to investigate their assumptions (the Samaritan is the ‘good guy’?) and change their mind (literally: repent).

This is the prophetic ministry of the church – to imagine the world a different way and to image what that looks like to the world around us.

The next time you are preparing to come to the table, or enter the waters of baptism, or attend a wedding … remember that you are participating in an embodied metaphor, an enacted parable, and a performed symbol.

A Global Table

One of my favorite aspects of being part of the Methodists is the global communion. Tomorrow happens to be global communion Sunday and I can not wait to preach and then invite people to the table.

My angle tomorrow is going to pair two sets of three:

The first level is directional. After Pentecost, the church spread in at least 3 directions:

  • south to Africa
  • east to Asia
  • west to Europe.

The second level is historic. Coming to the communion table:

  • Reaches back through time to connect us with the saints of the past
  • Wraps around the globe to connect us to our global sisters & brothers
  • Propels us into the future of serving the world that god loves so much

Here is a little video I made to promote this Sunday.

I have been thinking about sacraments lately as I transfer my ordination from a non-sacramental denomination (ordinances) to a sacramental one.

Sacraments are enacted symbols. In this way, they are both signs that point to a greater reality and they are performed signifiers that can never fully reveal or contain the antecedent they are attempting to signify.

Sacraments are both significant artifacts of the church and they are gifts and graces (charis) that both form and inform our faith and practice.

In this sense sacraments and corporate worship are a parable of the kin-dom. Jesus used parables (not earthly stories with heavenly meanings but earthy stories with heavy meanings) to slide underneath the listener’s defenses in order to interrogate the ‘way things are’ to subvert the unjust status quo and turn upside-down / inside-out the listener’s presumptions about the way things are and the way that God wants them.

This is the prophetic ministry of the church – to imagine the world a different way and to image what that looks like to the world around us.

I’m really looking forward to preaching this tomorrow.

I asked Rob Bell about planting another church – he talked about Eucharist

In the a recent episode of Homebrewed Christianity, I asked Rob Bell what he would do if he were starting from scratch again.  I was particularly intrigued for three main reasons:
1) I actually am starting a new gathering so I wanted to pick his brain.
2) Bell is so creative and innovative – who better to ask?
3) His answer was somewhat surprising.

“I would have Eucharist a lot. And I would make it really clear to everybody that the Eucharist is our only hope. Because otherwise, there’s a thousand forces – the entropy is overwhelming…preferences and particularities…there are a thousand ways for a church to go in all these different directions – you end up just barely being able to hold it all together. But if you have the bread and the wine, and on a really regular basis, you put the bread and wine on the table and you say “Okay everybody – here you go: Body broken, blood poured out…”

I am not the most sacramental minister in the world so I pressed him on it a little bit. I said that both my co-pastor and folks like Nadia Bolz-Weber are really sold that Eucharist is the thing! I have even heard some RO types say that it is the only thing that can fix the world.

I heard  that and thought … look, I like communion as much as most (I would guess)  – but really Rob? The eucharist?  So I said (basically) “Yeah, I guess I’m just not that into it.  I’m more relational about it.”  By that I meant that when we sit at any table, the Spirit of Christ is with us and in that sense we are communing. When it is at church and we have special elements, it is Communion (capital C). I just don’t get into the ‘real presence’ thing at any level.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Roger Haight (and his book Jesus: Symbol of God).  I get the difference between a sign, symbol, and sacrament. I was just a little surprised that if Rob Bell were going to start from scratch … Eucharist is the first thing on the table?  (pun intended)

Rob doubled down. He said “Well it is relational!” He went on to clarify that you put the bread and the cup on the table and then ask:

“Alright – everyone have their rent payed this month? Anyone have any medical bills?”

I was stopped in my tracks. I was inspired. I even said to Rob that he almost converted me.

It’s moments like that where you realize when we say Eucharist or Communion … we may not all be saying the same thing.   It is sad at one level.  It is also inspiring at another level.

All I know is that I sure am glad that I asked that follow up question. Bell gave an incredible answer and really has me thinking about community, service and communion differently.

I recognize the gap between my and Rob’s take on this … but he has me thinking.

 

Eucharist isn’t Enough to Combat Consumer

Early today I wrote about my appreciation for a book by John Reader entitled Reconstructing Practical Theology: the Impact of Globalization. I mentioned his use of Zombie Categories and promised to tackle a specific issue today.

Globalization and technological developments pose unique challenges and potential assaults on the conception of “self”.  Reader examines three manifestations of these developments: Self as Commodity, Self as Consumer, and Self as Project.  While admittedly the “human capacity to reduce oneself to an object is nothing new”, there is a unique capacity for the loss of dignity and of ones integrity that is of significant concern for issues of ministry.

When an individual views themselves as a commodity, defines themselves as a consumer, or constructs a new identity to project there are social behaviors that have communal implications involved at every level of engagement. Each implication carries a legitimate concern regarding community and pastoral care.

Reader addresses specific concerns about globalization by interacting with writers from various camps who are attempting innovative critiques or corrections to some of the challenges provided in globalization. At one point he examines Radical Orthodoxy and the approach of John Millbank and William Cavanaugh, who promote the Eucharist as an antidote to globalization’s blurring of boundaries.

It is suggested that globalization fragments space and dislocates the individual from location and community as a result of the fragmentation. Whereas “globalization is a master narrative, one which claims universal truth and authority for itself”, Eucharist is promoted as being trans-historical by collapsing “all spatial and temporal divisions” in its catholicity.

Reader has serious concerns about Cavanagh’s (and Radical Orthodoxy’s) solutions to globalization’s challenges:

I will next raise some questions and reservations about his solution to the problem of how Christianity might be a site of resistance to the excesses of global capitalism. The value of his book is that it draws out issues which are central for practical theology as it engages with globalization and one can agree with his analysis without agreeing with the proposed antidote.

This provides a significant distinction for Reader will readily agree with Cavanaugh’s (and Milbank’s) analysis of the zombie categories and strongly affirm the profound danger of the commodification of church and the packaging of religious programming for appeal to a consumer driven market.

It is crucial that communities first acknowledge the realities of globalization and its impact upon the congregation (including the individual members that make up the congregation) or else it will be in danger of becoming an enclave that has simply created a fantasy for use during meeting times. Groups that do this create a toxic dichotomy in the lives of members – one while the group is together and another for the real world outside the meeting. While innovative approaches are much needed and deeply appreciated they must be constructed in full awareness and admission of the epic shifts happening in every society.

This really hit home with me for several reasons. The biggest reason is just how much I hear about communion. As one who has emerged from an evangelical upbringing, participates in the emergent conversation and is employed at a mainline church – I hear about the importance of Eucharist, communion and breaking bread. While I am willing to admit that there might be something I am just not getting about this issue, I am shocked at how much stock the folks I interact with talk about it.  And it’s a diverse group of folks:

  • New-monastics in intentional community
  • Lutherans
  • United Methodists
  • Emergent types
  • Radical Orthodox
  • House Church folks

That is quite a spread. So I should probably admit that I have never bought into trans or con substantiation. I am allergic to the whole debate about ‘real presence’ and I am nervous anytime someone calls it ‘sacrament’ hoping that they actually know what sacramental means theologically and are not just using that like religious ‘special sauce’ to sprinkle on things we want to give elevated importance to.

 I think that it is beautiful symbol, an important ceremony and true sacrament. So this thing that the Rad. O folks try and do to use Eucharist to combat consumerism is just funky to me. Its not just a stretch – it might be missing the point all together. Do we need to combat consumerism? Yes.  Is this the way to do it?  I don’t think so.

Having said that, I will agree with two things:

  1. Communion can combat consumerism. I’m not talking about the Eucharist, I’m talking about actually communing – sitting around a table and eating bread with others while talking about Jesus and being the body of Christ. But a religious ceremony, especially one that is administered by salaried officials? I don’t think so.
  2. The only way that I could get behind this Eucharist idea is if the wheat for the bread was grown by community and the soil that the grapes grew in was known and visited by them! IF communion was a way to reconnect with the earth and with a location – THEN I could get down with the suggestion. That would combat combat consumerism is a significant way.  But then again, I suppose at this point I am really supporting localism and not anything to do with Eucharist!

Consumerism needs combating. I just don’t think that rehabilitating old categories and ancient practices are going to be the solution. I do think that ancient practices should be a vital part of a whole integrated approach and an import anchor in the church’s web of meaning. I just get nervous when there is so much importance placed on Eucharist and that is often the first, and sometimes only, thing mentioned.

But if we go buy the bread and juice then provide people a religious service of them consuming it like they would a biscotti and latte?  They leave the transaction feeling better about themselves … that might actually be feeding their consumeristic mentality!

__________

When I first posted this at HBC, I got lots of good feedback and some pretty heavy pushback. One of the main concerns was that I didn’t put forward enough positive alternatives. (tough to do in under 1000 words) so I will endeavor to concoct a post with some positive alternatives 😉

__________

Thoughts? Questions? Concerns? Cautions?    -Bo

Haunted by Zombie Categories

I have spent that last two weeks reading and shoring up my familiarity with Creation Ex Nihilo and the Trinity respectively. As fascinating as that has been,  I have to admit that am speculated out. I can only take so much speculative theology. This is part of why I am so happy to be in the field of Practical Theology. The other reason is that I have a real heart for the church.

I love Practical Theology. It is a fascinating field that is in the midst of a significant reinvention of itself. As an interdisciplinary engagement within the academy, it interacts with local faith expressions (like the church) in the hope to mutually benefit both the local church and the academy as a sort of go-between.

One of the major changes in this reinvention comes from the recognition that Practical Theology had not doing its own homework. It had fallen into a stale habit of simply attempting to apply the work of other disciplines. Applications of other’s work is fine at some level, but that is no way to gain credibility within the academy. If you want to be taken seriously in that world, you have to endeavor to innovate and explore – just like everyone else.

John Reader is one of my favorites. In the book Reconstructing Practical Theology: the Impact of Globalization the author examines the impact of globalization on everything from families and spirituality to the economy and ecology. There are two specific aspects of the book that I want to post about today and tomorrow: ‘Zombie Categories’ and ‘why the Eucharist isn’t Enough’.

Zombie Categories

Change can be seen in the categorization used within scholarship, specifically as it applies to fields such as practical theology. Reader borrows the term “zombie categories” from Ulrich Beck to refer to existent categorization that are fundamentally dead but which still limps on refusing to go away quietly. This situation forces us to exist temporarily in parallel worlds both utilizing “old, familiar and increasingly redundant” categories alongside “new, emerging and untested” ones.

Reader examines the historical developments and transitions, quickly surveying from the early church to the professionalism and secularism of the twentieth century. This is why it is so important for contemporary theologian to interact with fields such as psychology, sociology, economics, and even the political. As much as I appreciate and have learned from the Big 4 of Theology (Systematic, Historic, Biblical and Philosophical).

In a quick survey of the territory it is becomes clear that the issues encountered under the heading of globalization are not simply a series of incremental changes to which we must adapt to keep operating. The impact of globalization challenges the very frameworks and concepts that are familiar to the practice of Christian ministry.

I get push-back all the time for saying that we need to reexamine and desperately reinvent the very frameworks and vocabularies with which we engage in ministry.

The concerns of local ministry and pastoral care along with the conduct of worship and the diverse challenges needing to be addressed in any context ask something very distinct from us now. The transient nature of globalization paired with a virtually liquid social structure requires a different set of questions and a unique collection of frameworks to adequately address the challenges of ministry and spirituality in a world where the boundaries are constantly shifting. These concerns are most appropriately addressed by re-imagining internal categories inherent to the tradition, partnered with the resources made available by engaging with “the insights of other disciplines”.

This is not about answering the same old questions in slightly different ways for our new context – this is about asking entirely different kinds of questions about the formation of self, the family relationship, construction of community and the nature of religion.

Tomorrow I want to look at how consumerism forms our concept of ‘self’ and why the Eucharist – no matter how tightly we hold to it or how faithfully we perform it – address what is going on with us these days. But first I needed to state how deep the change is and how profound its impact on us is. Cleverly updated answers to the antiquated questions are not going to cut it anymore.

Something else is needed. Our world is not simply a bigger version of what used to be. When people keep insisting that ‘this’ is just an amplified version of ‘that’ they may be missing the point of what it is exactly that we need to be doing here.  “Doing the same thing Sunday after Sunday” may be the worst idea in the history of the church. It may not be –  but it is sure to kill us while we lie in the very bed that we made for ourselves. 

Originally posted at HBC 

The table of the Lord: eating together

In the gospel story the Last Supper is the calm before the storm.

If we were filming it as block-buster movie, the Last Supper is where we transition from the wide-screen shots  to a narrow focus – from  fast cut action sequences of arguing with Pharisees to slower calmer exchanges with the devoted and the trusted.

There is a narrowing, a focusing, that happens at this point in the story. It gets tighter, it gets smaller, it gets quieter, it gets more focused. Everything draws in – the story takes a breath. Continue reading “The table of the Lord: eating together”

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