Yesterday, Sunday July 15th, my family and I had the privilege to lead our church community, Crosspoint Fellowship, in the celebration of the Eucharist or Communion – something we do weekly as a community.
First, I read the Epistles text for the seventh Sunday of Pentecost – Ephesians 1:3-14 (CEB),
3 Bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing that comes from heaven. 4 God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless in God’s presence before the creation of the world. 5 God destined us to be his adopted children through Jesus Christ because of his love. This was according to his goodwill and plan 6 and to honor his glorious grace that he has given to us freely through the Son whom he loves. 7 We have been ransomed through his Son’s blood, and we have forgiveness for our failures based on his overflowing grace, 8 which he poured over us with wisdom and understanding. 9 God revealed his hidden design to us, which is according to his goodwill and the plan that he intended to accomplish through his Son. 10 This is what God planned for the climax of all times: to bring all things together in Christ, the things in heaven along with the things on earth. 11 We have also received an inheritance in Christ. We were destined by the plan of God, who accomplishes everything according to his design.12 We are called to be an honor to God’s glory because we were the first to hope in Christ.13 You too heard the word of truth in Christ, which is the good news of your salvation. You were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit because you believed in Christ. 14 The Holy Spirit is the down payment on our inheritance, which is applied toward our redemption as God’s own people, resulting in the honor of God’s glory.
And then Christie (C.C.) read this brief reflection (in which we tried to tie together the text and Communion with the theme of knitting – since Christie knits … A LOT!),
You may not know it, but the God and Father of our liberating King Jesus is a knitter. We find in Ephesians 1 that we are adopted ‘through the son’…that we have received grace ‘through Jesus Christ’. And seven times the phrase ‘in Christ’ is used: for example we are blessed ‘in Christ’; chosen ‘in Christ’; our hope is ‘in Christ’; and we find that ultimately all things in heaven and on earth are brought, or knit, together ‘in Christ’. The table of our Lord is set with the broken body and shed blood of our Lord which sustains us. It is Christ himself who has invited us to his table. At this table, as we serve the bread and juice to one another in mutual submission, we are knit together in community. At this table we are knit into the story of our liberating King as a cruciform, cross shaped people. As we submit ourselves together to the table of our Lord, we are constituted; we are knit together, as the body of Christ for the sake of Abilene and the world.
Then Damaris read this introduction to how we practice Communion (we tried to get her to do the prayer too, but she was a bit gun shy on the speaking in public thing),
At Crosspoint we serve the Eucharist, or Communion, every week to each other by intinction. This means when it is your turn to partake of the bread and juice your neighbor will hold the plate while you take a piece of the bread and dip it in the cup. And then you, in turn, hold the plate for the next person as they partake of the bread and juice.
And Christie then finished off with this Communion Prayer:
through your goodness
we have this bread and fruit of the vine to offer,
which has come forth from the earth
and human hands have made.
May we know your presence
in the sharing,
so that we know your touch
and presence of all things.
We celebrate the life that Jesus has shared
among his community through the centuries,
and shares with us now.
Made one in Christ
and one with each other,
we offer these gifts and with them ourselves,
a single, living act of praise.
We pray this in the name of our liberating King Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen.
I can’t adequately express how excited I was to be able to lead our community in Communion along with my family in this manner. Firstly, I absolutely loved that the voice of my wife and daughter were heard. Not only am I a supporter of the full inclusion and ordaining of women in ministry as a whole, but I am most fully a supporter of one ordained woman in particular – my wife. And my hope is that as Damaris grows up she will find her own voice as well. We are blessed to be a part of a community that values the hearing and leadership of female voices as well as male voices – and most importantly I think, the hearing of male and female voices alongside each other.
But this was also something I needed, a counter liturgy to what I did all day at work on Friday. If I’m honest, I have to admit the difficulty of working in Christian retail and trying to be authentically kingdom centered and missional. This is because Christian retail represents the commodification of the kingdom and the subversion of anything missional to the liturgies of consumerism. Some of this (but not a lot) is ameliorated working in the books section. Sometimes I have a good and productive chat with people about Bible translations … sometimes. And sometimes I get to talk to someone who has good things to say about N.T. Wright (for example) … sometimes. I feel these consumer liturgies even more when I have to cashier … a liturgy which I had to repeat all day on Friday (I must confess that, as a result, I came home Friday evening in a very bad mood and feeling very defeated and displaced, wanting very much for this current season to be over with).
James K.A. Smith remarks on these sort of consumer liturgies (HT: – of Paper, Pints, and Tweed),
Marketing understands that we are liturgical animals, that we are lovers, that we are longers, that we are shaped and primed by stories that capture our imagination. But we should know that, the church should be the centre that understands and appreciates that. So, if something like this model or argument is right, it will actually become a way to account for Christian assimilation to cultural forces. It actually helps you to understand Christian assimilation to consumerism, nationalism and all kinds of egoisms, because these –isms have had all the best stories. The devil has had all the best liturgies.
The proper response to that situation is to change our practice. It’s not just knowledge, right? I mean, I do think intellectual reflection on these matters is important; that’s kind of what we’re doing tonight. But what the impetus for that intellectual reflection should do then is prompt us to immerse ourselves in practices that will form us otherwise, to reactivate and renew those liturgies and rituals and disciplines that intentionally embody the story of the gospel and enact a vision of the coming kingdom of God in such a way that they’ll seep into our bones and become part of the background of our perceptions, the very baseline for our dispositions.
Quote from Smith’s interview with Encounter, where he talks about the power of storied formation, liturgy, and marketing.
The weekly observance of the Eucharist or Communion is a vital practice that I believe has the ability to ‘form us otherwise’, ‘embody the story of the gospel’, and ‘enact a vision of the coming kingdom of God’. It is at the Lord’s Table that we are drawn into the story of Christ and the triune theo-drama of Father, Son, and Spirit. It is at the Lord’s Table that we are drawn into community with Christians from the whole sweep of Christian history (yes, even the ones we don’t like) and sustained. But Eucharist and Communion is not only about the feeling of community. It is also about being formed into a specific type of community – a cruciform, incarnational, and missional people. In fact, as the reflection above states, I believe that it is at the Table of the Lord’s broken body and spilled blood that we are constituted as Christ’s ecclesia – his cruciform, missional body for the sake of our local contexts and the world alike. Yes, I think Communion is really that important. And to be honest, in leading our community in this sort of counter liturgy is where I felt at home and at peace.
May we seek liturgies that form us otherwise as a kingdom, cruciform people of the liberating King.
O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.