Have you ever made bread? I mean, have you ever made bread without a bread making machine? Making bread with yeast, flower, water and all that stuff is quite the process.
|Bread and Communion are Complex|
My wife buys bread. I'm insanely fond of the cranberry walnut bread that she brings back from Harris Teeter. It is "to-die-for." Seriously, it is some of the most flavorful, perfectly textured, moist and hearty stuff that has ever passed the lips of man - well, this man, at least. Yet, if I look at the ingredients, there isn't anything special - flour, cranberries, walnuts, salt, sugar, yeast...the usual suspects...no special sauce. Yet, together they are freaking amazing.
I don't know a lot about making bread, but I know it is often not as easy as it seems. It takes the right ingredients, in the right proportions. It also takes the right temperatures: one for mixing, another for rising, another for baking. It also takes the right baker, someone who knows how to put it all together. However, when all of that comes together - it will make your mouth water and your tongue slap your brain. Speaking of Communion - which is where I am going with this - Communion works the same way.
We have these simple things, bread and juice (we call it wine, but it isn't really - it's just grape juice). In spite of any theological treatment of transubstantiation, it really is just bread and juice. So, what's all the fuss about? Holy Communion, also known as the Eucharist and the Lord's Supper, is a complex an often debated event in the life of the Christian Church. I'm not about to tackle here what has been argued to an unsuccessful conclusion for some 2000 years. What I do want to offer here is an analogy that helps me understand what is going on in the event of Holy Communion, and in this thing call Religion.
Like the making of bread, the celebration of Holy Communion is the coming together of very basic elements into a single moment where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The 'special' thing about Communion is not the bread, juice, liturgy or the individuals present, it is what happens when all of this gets 'baked' together by the Divine. Spiritual awareness is increased. People make new commitments. New missions and ministries are born and proven ministries are continually supported. I like this idea.
|It Takes Many Ingredients to Make Beauty|
The wonder of Communion is found in what happens when all of the ingredients come together, get completed by God and new possibilities are born. If we take a step back, we can apply this same thinking to a larger picture. In the same way that each congregation is a microcosm of the Communion moment, perhaps we need to think that our specific group experience, our particular denomination is just one of the ingredients in something much larger that God is baking up. So if we mix some of our stuff with some of other's stuff and turn it over to God, who knows what will rise and form?
What does that mean? Perhaps we can say that it is very important that we find not only ways to be good at what we are doing, but also ways to mix and test some more recipes together. Perhaps we can trust a larger process and be a little less exclusive. or maybe it just means we need to be open to what God is trying to do with us - right now, right where we are - so we can add our part to the mix.