Quoting one of their speakers, YC Newfoundland – a Youth Conference held this past weekend in my natal province, offered this gem on twitter. Coming from a Eucharistic and Sacramental Church, I found this to be just a little bit trite and slightly insulting. While I admit that I am quoting a tweet from a speech I did not hear, and do not know the full context, I am troubled by what it implies and was troubled by some of what followed in a FB chat with a FB friend about that quote. While I agree that communion involves more than the elements involved (For my tradition it is real bread and and wine in a common cup), I also hold that Jesus is fully present in to us in the sacrament.
Most troubling is the attempt at edginess – I know of no church that observes communion that uses cardboard – nor does Bradley Noel. What may be a cool tweetable sound bite, for Noel or some of those at YC Newfoundland is greatly disrespectful of Eucharistic communities. It speaks to the attitude that some from non-sacramental traditions hold about what we do and who we are.
When I take communion, I am making what Bradley Noel might call and Altar call. When I am gathered around The Table with my community and we are sharing the Biblical story of Jesus, we are engaged in communion. When we offer that gift of the presence of Jesus in the sacrament of the church to the weak, the vulnerable, and the broken, we are in communion with those that God has called us to be in communion with. ‘Eating together and talking about Jesus’ is precisely what happens on a Sunday Morning at my church with 120 friends, it happens on a Wednesday with a dozen friends, and it happens in the starkness of a locked hospital ward with a patient whom most have forgotten, it happens in the quietness of a home within minutes of a followers death. Healing occurs, Love is made real. Jesus is truly present. When we take communion at church it is more than a sign or a symbol – it is an act of faith. We declare that Jesus is present and commit to do what he has asked of us in baptism. It happens that when we take communion we share bread that some may call cardboard and wine that they can call a ‘shot.’ Those references however show a lack of respect and high degree of ignorance of the sacredness of the Sacrament of Jesus, instituted at the Last Supper.
The Holy Spirit is present when we break bread together. I believe that is very true, in many different circumsatnces. Indeed, when we eat together and discuss our faith and our God, we are in communion with one another. On that point, I could not agree more. It’s just a shame that Mr. Noel needed to take a swipe at Eucharistic traditions with is ‘smart’ but disrespectful comment. The YC events are an extention of a ministry in Alberta called Extreme Dream Ministries. Their webpage says that they are ‘promoting being a follower of Jesus Christ through powerful events, missions, and whatever creative means imaginable. Extreme Dream is committed to making much of Jesus and influencing the Church and society towards living life in the purposes of God.’ I guess that all good unless, one of creative means is through bread and wine. I cannot imagine being more creative than Jesus. Remember what he did? He took bread and wine and broke it with his friends and declared that it was his body, his blood of a new and eternal covenant. Hear how St Paul explains it the church in Corinth –
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
I will leave the last words to Henri Nouwen – (perhaps not a big influence in arena ministry, but certainly one of the greatest Christian Thinkers of the 20th Century)
Where is Jesus today? Jesus is where those who believe in him and express that belief in baptism and the Eucharist become one body. As long as we think about the body of believers as a group of people who share a common faith in Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus remains an inspirational historical figure. But when we realise that the body Jesus fashions in the Eucharist is his body, we can start to see what real presence is. Jesus, who is present in the gifts of his Body and Blood, becomes present in the body of believers that is formed by these gifts. We who receive the Body of Christ become the living Christ.