Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Struggle of How Versus What

Today in the journey to the cross things begin to take on a whole new dimension. Jesus gathers with the disciples in the upper room, probably more than just the twelve. During their time in the upper room they are celebrating the Passover. This is the celebration of God leading the people out of Egypt and slavery and moving them toward the promise of God and freedom. For a read of the passage go to Mark 14:12-26.

Let me start by saying we often take the celebration of Holy Communion too lightly. More accurately, I have often found myself not fully connecting with what is going on in the act of Communion. Growing up it was something we did in church monthly, and once I traveled in another tradition it was only occasionally that we celebrated the Lord's Supper. Still whenever I celebrated the meal, it seemed to be lacking something for me. By the time I started seminary and my vocation in the church, I really did not place much value in the time of Holy Communion. I defiantly did not understand why people got so worked up about the whole thing.

Sad to say I have participated in what has been not so affectionately called the worship wars. This has been the ongoing struggle between the classic forms of worship in the church and emerging forms. There has been a lot of press about the music in the conflict however there is another casualty, Holy Communion. Debates about the appropriate ways to celebrate communion surfaced. There were all kinds of arguments for and against certain styles, from sanitary issues, to wastefulness, and I even heard claim that taking communion in the wrong style will offend God. Should communion be taken at an altar rail, in the pews, or as an individual interaction. Should there be bread cubes, wafers, or a whole loaf of bread. Is it appropriate to have little cups for wine or juice. Should it be wine or juice. Should there be a common cup, should we drink from the cup or only dip the bread symbol.

As happens anytime there is more focus on the how than the what in the church we have tragically missed the point. I do not think God really cares how we go about celebrating Communion. Meaning, it is of little consequence to Jesus if we use wafers, or bread, little cups or a common cup. If we are at a rail together, in pews or processing in line. The style of the meal matters not. What matters is what is happening in our relationship with God. On that night when Jesus gathered with the disciples in the upper room the focus was not on the way he broke the bread it was focused on what it means for us that he broke the bread.

So what is happening when we celebrate Holy Communion? We are connecting with one of the anchor points in our journey. Through the sharing of communion we are connecting with Christ and remembering the sacrifice made on our behalf. We are also remembering that Christ is there with us in that very moment. Holy Communion is a time when we have opportunity to ask that most Wesleyan of questions, "How is it with my soul?" Through the act of Communion the grace of God is made tangible for us. This grace has the capacity to reconcile a wayward soul or strengthen the soul of one who is earnestly seeking to follow God.

How we understand all that to take place is secondary. I know some will not agree with that statement, there is not much I can do about that. The primary action of Holy Communion is the connection between humanity and God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I hope you will have opportunity today to celebrate Holy Communion. I hope you will have an opportunity to ask the question, how is it with your soul. My prayer is that as you share in the bread and the fruit of the vine, you will find rest for your souls, strength for the journey and hope for the future of promise.

No comments: