Thursday, 13 April 2017
Living as the Body of Christ
When we offer the elements at the Eucharist, in the person of the priest, Jesus takes, blesses, breaks and shares out his Body. At the same time Jesus accepts and sanctifies our sacrifice of thanks and praise. He takes each of us and blesses us. We are broken, too, as we share his suffering for the sake of the world.
And we are shared out as well. Some of us get caught up in lively debates with people who are vehemently opposed to living a life of faith, sometimes with very good reason after a bad experience of the Church. A person said to me that the Church was full of hypocrites, so I told him there was always room for one more. He came back for more and said, “Do you think you’re Jesus or something”? I told him, “In a sense, yes”. I believe it was Austen Farrar who wrote that as Jesus knew his death was drawing near and that he would be taken out of this world, he took not only bread and wine to be his body and blood; he also took those disciples to embody the continuing power of his Incarnation in the world. For if we, the Body of Christ, empowered by the Spirit of Christ, are not living out what Jesus made us at the Last Supper, the expression of his Incarnation in the world today, who else is it going to be? The world has a desperate need for his presence, in the Gospel, in the Eucharist, and in each of us. Somewhere in the complexity of their lives people are invited to discover the living God in the quality of the hospitality which we both offer and receive. If you will, it is the kind of foot washing to which we are all called. Someone has to embody God alongside everyone so that everyone can open up to the God within and around them. It takes the poor in spirit to touch and heal the poverty of the world’s fear and hopelessness. This is a job for us.
So the Eucharist which Christ instituted on the night he was betrayed is not just a memorial of the Last Supper celebrated once a year. It is not just the particular sacramental moment of our regular worship. It is the whole of our life lived in thanksgiving to God. And before we start to back out of the deal because we are unworthy, let us remember that Jesus included Judas in the foot washing and the breaking of bread. No one is left out who does not choose to absent themselves. Give thanks to the God who takes us, who loves us now, and who loves us into becoming that beautiful and holy people whom God already sees. Living as the Body of Christ, the Mass of the Last Supper reminds us, is always about being a guest before ever we are the host. That’s an important lesson about how we engage in God’s mission in God’s world.
Stephen Conway is the Bishop of Ely.
Posted by Stephen Conway on
Thursday, 13 April 2017 at 7:00am BST
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No one is left out. Thanks be to God.
We've just had the Blackburn Diocese Chrism Eucharist at the Cathedral. Lots of women priests there and a new woman Assistant Archdeacon. Bishop Philip North, our Bishop of Burnley spoke about recent events, about being back with everyone in the cathedral and he received a huge round of applause. A wonderful Eucharist together. Just saying.
Very prevalent way of thinking, but a big No from me. The incarnation is a very technical term about uncreated being coming into creation, and should not be used to talk about the presence of Christ granted to us in the freedom of his love, as ascended, risen, glorified. The Ascension, say some Presbyterian friends of mine, should help us guard against thinking of ourselves as an "elongation" of the incarnation. For me, such talk, of us continuing or being the incarnation, misunderstands that we participate in a reflected glory, diminishes the witness-bearing nature of our status, takes away from the finished nature of Christ's work, and, maybe most significant, privileges us with too rich a role in the dram or work of salvation. There are other ways of emphasizing the gift of Christ's real presence and the importance of our mission.
The reflection by bishop Conway of Ely is a very meaningful read for for today (Maundy Thursday).
And I liked this line, "Some of us get caught up in lively debates with people who are vehemently opposed to living a life of faith..." I smiled when I read it because some of us get caught up in lively debates with other people who are vehemently faithful, but with a different view of that faith from one's own. So it should be.
However, there is a time for silence. This observation abridged from Henri Nouwen's reflection, Walk with Jesus,is thoughtful.
"Of all the days in history Holy Saturday--the Saturday during which the body of Jesus lay in the tomb in silence and darkness behind the large stone that was rolled against its entrance (Mk. 15:46)is the day of God's solitude. ... It is the day on which no words were spoken, no proclamations made. ...This Holy Saturday is the most quiet of all days. ...From this silence, the word will be spoken again and make all things new."
A blessed Easter to everyone who comments here.
Χριστόσ ανέστη! in about 28 hours my time.
I loved the come back about hypocrites "there's always room for one more!"
Last night, after the Maundy Thursday liturgy, with foot washing, I sat in vigil at the Altar of Repose at the hour assigned to my spouse and me. Late at night, with a cold coming on, I nodded off a bit. In my "dream," Jesus placed Ian Paul and me in a locked room, with the task of working out our Salvation then and there, together, or not at all. I believe this to be a metaphorical vision, not a personal one (though I'm sure Ian Paul would be an interesting person to spend time with).
I love this:
"No one is left out who does not choose to absent themselves. Give thanks to the God who takes us, who loves us now, and who loves us into becoming that beautiful and holy people whom God already sees." All of us, male, female, gay, straight, black, white, poor, rich...
And I love the Incarnational theology. Jesus came to reveal Himself to us, and He continues his presence in the breaking of the bread, and many other instances.
"Very prevalent way of thinking, but a big No from me". William (Bill) Paul.
Bill, Stanley Hauerwas's piece at Opinion, two threads above this, and especially his last paragraph, seems to contradict you.
I'm with Hauerwas, and Bishop Conway.
Nothing that I see in Hauerwas' piece goes against anything I have said. (FTR I had a conversation with him in Cardiff at an SST meeting about my perceived romanticism in him vis a vis his adulation, expressed at that conference, about Irish RC practices, but that's another story).) I am saying that the prevalent incarnational rhetoric just seems to forget how basic is the created/uncreated distinction. I don't see a way around that. Why not speak, IDKN maybe of an 'animated' existence? Seems better to me. As it happens, we have bishops and others who routinely say "You are the Risen Christ, you are the Incarnate Christ" w/out qualification, w/out elaboration, and I find it fundamentally wrong-headed if not appaling. Christ, in freedom, comes to be more intimate, it is not (per H Frei) a "native cohabitation" with us. And Hauerwas would seem, with his great stress on God's aseity, to be in this camp. Though Hauerwas aside, I think my points still stand. Blessings to you.
Also re Luke-Acts. The sense of that passage, if I recall, stressing that Christ actively "made" himself known, attesting to his freedom and his movement to us. My comments in no way deny or diminish the presence of Christ, but rather suggest specifying that presence by what often amounts to an equation with us simplciter is not the way to go. Let's find some other word than incarnation. (I mean think about the word itself even.).