What If Rob Bell Planted Another Church? (hint: Eucharist)

In the most recent episode of Homebrewed Christianity, I asked Rob Bell what he would do if he were starting from scratch again.  I was particularly intrigued for three main reasons:
1) I actually am starting a new gathering so I wanted to pick his brain.
2) Bell is so creative and innovative – who better to ask?
3) His answer was somewhat surprising.

“I would have Eucharist alot. And I would make it really clear to everybody that the Eucharist is our only hope. Because otherwise, there’s a thousand forces – the entropy is overwhelming…preferences and particularities…there are a thousand ways for a church to go in all these different directions – you end up just barely being able to hold it all together. But if you have the bread and the wine, and on a really regular basis, you put the bread and wine on the table and you say “Okay everybody – here you go: Body broken, blood poured out…”

I am not the most sacramental minister in the world so I pressed him on it a little bit. I said that both my co-pastor and folks like Nadia Bolz-Weber are really sold that eucharist is the thing! I have even heard some RO types say that it is the only thing that can fix the world.

I heard  that and thought … look, I like communion as much as most (I would guess)  - but really Rob? The eucharist?  So I said (basically) “Yeah, I guess I’m just not that into it.  I’m more relational about it.”  By that I meant that when we sit at any table, the Spirit of Christ is with us and in that sense we are communing. When it is at church and we have special elements, it is Communion (capital C). I just don’t get into the ‘real presence’ thing at any level.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Roger Haight (and his book Jesus: Symbol of God).  I get the difference between a sign, symbol, and sacrament. I was just a little surprised that if Rob Bell were going to start from scratch … Eucharist is the first thing on the table?  (pun intended)

Rob doubled down. He said “Well it is relational!” He went on to clarify that you put the bread and the cup on the table and then ask:

“Alright – everyone have their rent payed this month? Anyone have any medical bills?”

I was stopped in my tracks. I was inspired. I even said to Rob that he almost converted me.

It’s moments like that where you realize when we say Eucharist or Communion … we may not all be saying the same thing.   It is sad at one level.  It is also inspiring at another level.

All I know is that I sure am glad that I asked that follow up question. Bell gave an incredible answer and really has me thinking about community, service and communion differently.

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56 comments
DavidMcNeish
DavidMcNeish

As  @Da stand das Meer  points out every attempt to dissect the mystery solves a problem and creates another one.  Which to my mind highlights that it is mystery.  Mystery doesn't need to mean fake magic or priestly voodoo.  Mystery as in how light can be both a wave and a particle, or a how a quantum bit can be zero or one or both.  Mystery as in how God can take on flesh, die, reanimate that flesh and then disappear again, leaving us with a meal to remember him by.  Take off your shoes!

 

I'm interested in silent eucharist.  There are words, words, words in most communion services - words of institution, words of penitence.  But the words are surely only an approximation of the deeper reality.  Wordless repentance is surely possible?  So can we make the Lord's Supper a silent encounter from time to time?  The trouble with most theologies of the sacrament is that God appears happy to bless all kinds of encounters with all kinds of different approaches.  So God is more open to the other ways of celebrating the sacrament than we often appear to be.

 

Can communion be wordless?  Can we trust the Holy Spirit to minister the deeper reality in the absence of words?  Interested in what folk think...

MarkCurrey
MarkCurrey

i love that the Eucharist is communal in that it connects not only those who share it in a common setting but all Christ-followers who observe the sacrament. not just on a given sunday... but all who have taken the bread and wine since the upper room - and also to those who follow us. Eucharist is the thread that connects all of Christendom in all time

JeffEddings
JeffEddings

when we started our community 10 years ago we knew we wanted to have communion every week. but not just bread and cup communion, but all out meal communion, so we share the bread and the cup but then we share the tacos, and the mash potatoes, or whatever else it is that we are having that week....that is where the the real communing happens week after week. sitting down, sharing life over the meal....it is where we have the opportunity to sit down with someone who is different or someone who is other from us and get to know them a bit...often i have told my mom, who produces this meal week after week, there is no way we could have started this church without this meal!  hey, the music could be off key, the sermon could suck, the prayers might be disjointed but at the end of the day we were still going to be worshiping together as we laughed, ate, and shared our life over tasty grub...

mattdabbs
mattdabbs

In 1411 Andrei Rublev painted "The Hospitality of Abraham". It depicts the three angels sitting around a table with a cup in the middle. It has become symbolic of the trinity. There is no hierarchy between them. There eyes are all on each other and they are all painted as equals. When I read this post it reminded me of that picture of the Trinity in perfect communion with each other around the table. Yes, it is relational just as God himself is relational. Here is the picture

 

http://www.christendom-awake.org/images/rublevtrinity.jpg

 

Henry Nouwen said this about the painting,

"The more we look at this holy image with the eyes of faith, the more we come to realize that it is painted not as a lovely decoration for a convent church, nor as a helpful explanation of a difficult doctrine, but as a holy place to enter and stay within. As we place ourselves in front of the icon in prayer, we come to experience a gentle invitation to participate in the intimate conversation that is taking place among the three divine angels and to join them around the table.  The movement from the Father toward the Son and the movement of both Son and Spirit toward the Father become a movement in which the one who prays is lifted up and held secure…We come to see with our inner eyes that all engagements in this world can bear fruit only when they take place within this divine circle, the house of perfect love." (Behold the Beauty of the Lord: Praying with Icons, p. 20-22).

cammoblammo
cammoblammo

When I read the Gospels I notice that Jesus spent an awful lot of time eating with people, and often publicly. He was quite undiscerning (or, better, generous) in who he ate with, and that was a source of a great deal of his trouble. It seems to me that Jesus mediated grace at these gatherings as much (if not more) than at the Last Supper. So I'm inclined to agree with your idea that Communion is primarily relational.

 

However it is practised (my tradition doesn't practise it at all in the liturgical sense) I think the presence of others at the table is just as important (or more so) as the form, the words and the person presiding. I really dig the idea of community meals, because it gives us a chance to commune with one another, serve one another and love one another. And having a feed together with people you wouldn't ordinarily associate with is always nice too!

 

Given my distance from the liturgical practice, I might be wrong here, but it seems that my friends who are more liturgically inclined view the Eucharist very selfishly---I hear them talk about the grace they receive when it's their turn to receive the elements. Something just seems wrong. That could just be my unfamiliarity with the whole thing though.

raberndt
raberndt

@leadfromfringe ...around a table, as a part of our meal) held us to one another.

raberndt
raberndt

@leadfromfringe Even as we were drifting in different directions theologically, communion (by this I mean truly breaking bread...

raberndt
raberndt

@leadfromfringe When I was part of a community in ATL, we all agreed that communion was the most important thing we could do together...

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

OK!  Thanks for the amazing conversation.  I am delighted that so many thoughtful and sincere people have chimed in.    Unfortunately we have reached that point in the life of blog where I start missing stuff in the comments section and can't remember who I was going to tie in with who.... SO 

 

At this point I either A) go back and add some stuff I should have more clear about to the original post  or B) do what I am about to do and start a new thread within the comments section.  

 

I would love to hear from y'all on something.   First a positive - then the negative.  

- When it come to communion I love the imagery - I love the poetry - I love the artistry - I love the mystery...  but there is something about sacramental language that gives me the medieval heebie-jeebies.     Sorry.  but I am wedded to a 'low' symbolic perspective. 

 

- I just want to be clear - in my view (I don't know about Rob Bell's)  that bread is just like every other bread EXCEPT for the intention of the community around it and presence of Holy Spirit power.  If the bread gets dropped on the floor, God is not offended or something.  Right?  It's just good ole' bread.   

 

I hate to be so remedial but some loft stuff has been shared here today and I getting suspicious about some of the 'mystery' language.    Please help  -Bo 

walrusmuse
walrusmuse

See I'm of an ilk that loves the table for what it is, and indeed for it's lack of drama and personality-driven-ness. That's what sells Anglican/Episcopal forms to me in many ways. I share a Baptist pedigree though, so I'm always asking why something has to be fancy-and if it ever becomes idolatrous or only symbolic vs the relational kinds of emphases you describe. 

 

So Bell's excellent answer knocks me good in another direction-i.e. i didn't necessarily see the Eucharist as having to be kinda relational as you meant it, but with Bell's suggestion: I don't see how it couldn't be now. Thanks for sharing this, and for kicking at the pricks in a thoughtful way and not just agreeing flat out. Great stuff. 

shawn andrews
shawn andrews

I love that part of the interview. It seemed like he was taking the accepted sacred nature of Eucharist to show that community is no less sacred (not so different from what I hear you say about sharing the table, without emphasis on what food is served). "communion" from either perspective is compelling.

dangarvin
dangarvin

Richard Beck over at Experimental Theology posted something this morning that fits quite nicely with this post and discussion. http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2012/10/take-this-bread.html

 

He speaks of the book "Take this Bread" by Sara Miles who, as a life-long Atheist, walked into a church that practiced open communion and was converted during the Eucharist. He quotes the following:

 

======

We sat down and stood up, sang and sat down, waited and listened and stood up and sang, and it was all pretty peaceful and sort of interesting. "Jesus invites everyone to his table," the woman announced, and we started moving up in a stately dance to the table in the rotunda. It had some dishes on it, and a pottery goblet.

 

And then we gathered around that table. And there was more singing and standing, and someone was putting a piece of fresh, crumbly bread in my hands, saying "the body of Christ," and handing me the goblet of sweet wine, saying "the blood of Christ," and something outrageous and terrifying happened. Jesus happened to me.

======

 

I love what Sara proceeds to do after this experience. As the book description says, "she turned the bread she ate at communion into tons of groceries, piled on the church’s altar to be given away. Within a few years, she and the people she served had started nearly a dozen food pantries in the poorest parts of their city."

MattBarlow
MattBarlow

I've been attending a church that holds the Eucharist at the close of every service. I've received Communion/Eucharist many, many times in various churches, but it hasn't been until doing so at this particular church that it has become a profound and significant experience.The church, Haywood Street Congregation, is primarily an outreach ministry to the homeless here in Asheville, NC. The service is held on Wednesdays, at 12:30pm. Prior to the service, they offer a free lunch to anyone who wishes to eat - the Community Table. I am blown away at every service - I've never witnessed a church that takes the love of Christ so seriously. The atmosphere is raw, authentic, and humbling. The congregation is made up of folks from all walks of life and ages: homeless, business suits, you name it. The spirit of the church is come as you are, you are loved, the table is open. No nonsense. It is truly the Kingdom manifest here on earth.So, the Eucharist. At this church, the Eucharist is not just a symbol of things to come - it is a reality of how things are right now. Volunteers are asked each time to break the bread and offer the cup to participants. Sometimes, it's the guy who just got out of jail who is giving you a piece of bread, sometimes it's the homeless man you passed on the street earlier who is offering you the cup. And, as we all come to the table - in those moments, we are equals in Christ, we are all equals in his kingdom. It is absolutely beautiful.

 

Here's the thing. I could call up my friends, order a pizza, and commune with them, but I would missing the presence of all those other people - people that I would never think to invite over to pizza. And, that's the significance of the Eucharist done in community. It's not the symbolic presence of Christ that inspires me, it's the presence of the people taking part in the Eucharist that inspires me.

MAGuyton
MAGuyton

I'm writing as a Methodist pastor who goes to mass every Monday at the national shrine in DC. Before I attend mass, I usually spend 20 minutes in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, where the Eucharist host is kept. My spiritual experience in that room makes me unable to call the real presence of Christ a metaphorical turn of phrase. There is more going on than that. I don't think Jesus only pours Himself into round wafers; I hope at least that He has mercy on us ecumenical open-table Methodists with our weekly Hawaiian bread. But there is more there than just a symbol and I think our resistance to it is a reflection of our rationalism.

DenikaAnderson
DenikaAnderson

I haven't listened to the podcast yet--did you discuss the difference between Communion as an act of fellowship in the community and Communion as an atonement ritual? This was an issue of much debate amongst me (a good sort of-Lutheran) and my friends (mostly Baptists) in college, so I'm just curious...

jeffinanutshell
jeffinanutshell

Bo,

 

Thanks for this, I am glad that you pushed him on the question. I appreciate that Rob's response is decidedly concrete. 

 

Just curious, what do you mean by the "real presence" and what is at the heart of your hesitation? I think the mistake is to make the bread and wine the exclusive 'real presence' of Christ (it means missing the presence in a whole host of other ways - pun intended), but if it is a real meal, meeting real needs and incorporating the work of the community as an expression of love and care for one another, how is it not the real presence of Christ? I do, however, think that this is the case only if the Eucharist spills over the formal symbolism and  becomes a real part of the community's life. For example, I attend an Anglican church which has a strong Eucharistic tradition and also runs one of the largest daily breakfast/lunch programs in the city of Toronto. I think the 'real presence' of Christ shows up in the shared breakfast and lunch (perhaps in coffee and oatmeal), not necessarily in the Sunday morning symbolism.

 

PaxZion
PaxZion

Maybe I don't get it but...

What if someone didn't pay their rent?

theBoSanders
theBoSanders

@raberndt something else because I am not sure it is the MOST important thing any group does. Serving the neighborhood would seem more so.

theBoSanders
theBoSanders

@raberndt which is what the rub is over at the post. 2) I would question the word 'most' in importance. Do you mean 'for community' or ...

theBoSanders
theBoSanders

@raberndt I get that. VERY cool & not trying to be a stinker ... I just have to point 2 things out: 1) you said communion & not Eucharist ..

GregHillis
GregHillis

 @BoSanders As I've already noted on here, I'm Roman Catholic, so you already know my take on the Real Presence.  That said, I am curious about why you feel so compelled to affirm that the bread is only bread.  I can't quite understand what you gain by denying the Real Presence.  The Eucharistic ecclesiology that the early Christian communities developed, and the kind of Eucharistic ecclesiology emphasized in Catholic and Orthodox circles is an ecclesiology that is, ideally, focused on developing and fostering precisely the kind of community Rob Bell is talking about.  But it is an ecclesiology that is predicated on the Real Presence, the idea being that the kind of community where selfless love and humility reign supreme is enacted or made through an experience of divine selflessness and humility in the bread and wine of the Eucharist.  That is, experiencing the profound love of a God who doesn't shy away from being made present to us in bread and wine necessarily compels us to love.  Moreover, the focus of the Eucharist is much less on our own union with Christ through his body and blood, but on our union with our brothers and sisters by whom we are united physically and spiritually through Christ who gives himself to us.  Pope Benedict XVI expresses this clearly in a text he wrote called "Sacramentum Caritatis": "The union with Christ brought about by the Eucharist also brings a newness to our social relations: this sacramental ‘mysticism' is social in character. Indeed, union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself. I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own. The relationship between the eucharistic mystery and social commitment must be made explicit. The Eucharist is the sacrament of communion between brothers and sisters who allow themselves to be reconciled in Christ, who made of Jews and pagans one people, tearing down the wall of hostility which divided them (cf. Eph 2:14). Only this constant impulse towards reconciliation enables us to partake worthily of the Body and Blood of Christ (cf. Mt 5:23-24).  In the memorial of his sacrifice, the Lord strengthens our fraternal communion and, in a particular way, urges those in conflict to hasten their reconciliation by opening themselves to dialogue and a commitment to justice."  Pope Benedict is here merely repeating ideas found in the early church Fathers, Henri de Lubac, and the documents of Vatican II.

 

I'm certainly not trying to make a Catholic out of you or anyone, nor am I trying to be an apologist for the Catholic church.  I'm more speaking here as a theologian.  But I'm genuinely curious about what it is about the Real Presence of Christ in the bread and the wine that you find problematic theologically?  I, of course, understand that one can have a robust Eucharistic ecclesiology without a doctrine of the Real Presence (a la John Calvin).  But I haven't been able to figure out why so many since the 16th century, and so many on this blog, find the Real Presence troubling.

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

does it make sense why Rob's initial statement made me nervous and why I had to ask the follow-up question?  (which by the way I am SO glad that I did) -Bo 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @walrusmuse HOLY COW I LOVE YOUR TAKE ON THIS!   In fact, I have never quite thought of communion as " it's lack of drama and personality-driven-ness"  maybe THAT is why I love it so much.  

Now, keep in mind - I am as far from kinda anglican-ceremony-catholic-sacredness as you can get. I am low-church symbolic-ritual.  BUT my oh my do I like what you have said here (which is saying something!)   -Bo 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @shawn andrews Why are you being so rational, irenic and persuasive? What is that about?  ;p    Ok - technically you make a good point.  and Yes - I guess that we share far more in common than separates us here ....   so ....  thanks  (I guess)  -Bo 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @davidjanderson I don't know man .... I will go back and try and read that later.  I think I might be allergic to the rhetoric though.   I appreciate the link...  I'll try again in the morning. 

 

I don't like the idea of going 'back'.   a Eucharist-center liturgy sounds like that kind of medieval thing that gives me the heebbie-jeebbies . and I doubt it is the 'only' way to do it...  

so please understand that I need a little space as I work through this.   -Bo 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @MattBarlow  GOOD STUFF. Thank you so much for sharing. rock on!  -Bo 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @MAGuyton yah.  Nice stuff here.  -Bo  and just for clarification - that is why I acknowledged the sign, symbol, sacrament layering of Roger Haight.   -Bo 

MattBarlow
MattBarlow

 @MAGuyton I wonder if our focus is backwards concerning the Eucharist and the presence of Christ? Perhaps the significance is not that Christ has poured himself in the wafers, but that he has poured himself into us?? So, the presence of Christ at the Eucharist is not in the cup or bread, but in the people who gather at the table.

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @DenikaAnderson no, but that is what I am poking around at in this post.   Read my exchange with @jeffinanutshell (below) to see how we fleshed that out (pun intended) and the PLEASE jump in :)   -Bo 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @jeffinanutshell BINGO!  Yes.  You nailed it. 100%  That is my hesitation with most people's view of Eucharist.  What you are talking about with meals, communing, and formal symbolism is exactly what I was trying to say.  That is what I meant by relational ... but Rob's answer was pretty relational :)   -Bo

I was just nervous when he said 'Eucharist."  and then "put the bread and cup on the table" like that was enough... thus the follow up questions 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @PaxZion  I think that before anything else - that would be addressed by the community. There is a need, the community gathered ministers to that first.  That was my assumption...  -Bo

 

How does that sit with you?  

Da stand das Meer
Da stand das Meer

 @GregHillis  @BoSanders Couldn't have put it better ... De Lubac and the Nouvelle Théologie (to whom I would add thinkers like Zizioulas and Chrestos Giannaras on the EOrthodox side) are in some ways far more persuasive and less polemical on all this than the Radical Orthodoxy crowd who have taken many of their better ideas from them. I do have some problems with the Milbank/Pickstock historiography, but I think the basic lines are solid in that they are the same as were cogently argued by scholars such as Gilson/Chenu in a way that was fundamental to the revolution that was Vatican II.

 

This is where the term 'medieval' really needs some nuance when it starts getting used in discussions such as this. After all, we're talking about a period of about 1000 years between the fall of Rome and the Reformation, during which a lot of stuff happened en route... Put crudely, the picture that emerges from the Nouvelle Théologie/RO reading is something like the following:

 

In the first millenium there was a basic consensus about the Eucharist - an agreement that somehow Christ was really present, but also an agreement not to try to dissect the mystery too much by trying to define it in human language. The mid-13th century is where this apophatic stance starts to fall apart once Scholasticism cranks up with its desire to take everything apart logically. That's when the crazy and pointless debates start about when exactly in the liturgy the bread becomes the Body etc.; the result is that in the later Middle Ages the Eucharist is increasingly reduced to a question of human technique and CONTROL - a 'magic' ritual where the desired effect can be produced by the recitation of a verbal formula. In comparison to the mystical richness of first millenium Christianity, what was left by 1500 had already become something of a 'car manual' approach to religion. So it could be argued that the Reformers were kicking against what had become a pretty degenerate Eucharistic theology. But their various solutions had their own problems ...

walrusmuse
walrusmuse

@BoSanders sorry I've been so slow to say thanks! And I dug the podcast quite a bit.

shawn andrews
shawn andrews

@BoSanders - I have learned tons from hearing you say things like "when you call one thing holy you imply that everything else is unholy". When Rob came at it from the other direction and ended up in such a similar place, I was delighted that you had asked the follow up question :)

MattBarlow
MattBarlow

 @BoSanders BTW, you mentioned that you're starting a new gathering. I'm interested in starting a gathering of sorts as well, so I'd love to pick your brain sometime about ideas, resources, and insights about the process of putting something together.

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @MattBarlow  I'm with ya .... I just need to say agian that this is not how the majority of people (even those in the faith) that I get to talk with understand it - and THAT is my concern.   -Bo   but yes... I am with ya. 

jeffinanutshell
jeffinanutshell

 @BoSanders Got it, that makes sense. Had you not asked for clarification I would have had a similar response (allergy even). 

 

I do find that there is something almost therapeutic about receiving the Eucharist in the more liturgical sense, but I feel like that is only because I am convinced that it is not the 'real' thing. For me the symbolic practice serves a sort of centering reminder of what the real thing ought to be.

 

I'm not sure this means that we should drop the symbolic practice for a more fully realized communal meal (that is often how I feel), refusing to accept an imposed divide between the liturgical performance of the church and its lived practice. However, occasionally I will find the liturgical performance deeply moving and feel that it prepares me to go out into the world for another week and try to recreate what is symbolized in the stylized Eucharistic celebration (perhaps it is a life-giving aesthetic performance).

 

I know in the past you've had critical readings of William Cavanaugh's work on the Eucharist, but outside of the RO implications, I find his observation that "becoming the body of Christ also entails that we must become food for others" to be very fruitful. There are times where I feel that the liturgical symbolism reminds me that I am to be food for others. 

MattBarlow
MattBarlow

 @BoSanders It's a valid concern. My personal experience with Communion/Eucharist has always been in Baptist churches where everyone remains in their seats while deacons pass out the elements. There is a very solemn mood, and the focus is often on self as opposed to others. However, at Haywood St. Congregation (a Methodist church, btw), everyone stands and moves to the front of the sanctuary to receive the elements. For me, this has been extremely helpful in re-orienting myself to the Eucharist because I am moving and interacting with others. It's also helpful that volunteers offer the elements - not a priest, deacons, or other "holy" officiates.

GregHillis
GregHillis

@BoSanders @jeffinanutshell Thanks to you both for your comments. I'm relatively new to Homebrewed Christianity (some friends recommended the site and the podcast to me), and am impressed by what I read and hear. It seems to me, though (and please, correct me if I'm wrong), that there doesn't appear to be much engagement with contemporary Catholic theology or with patristic theology. That was behind my comment about Cavanaugh; I was concerned that his identity primarily as a Catholic theologian was being lost by identifying him primarily as someone appropriated by the R.O. Rob Bell's comments are interesting, but I find it interesting that no one is seeing the connection between what Bell is saying and the development of a eucharistic ecclesiology in the early Christian communities, an ecclesiology 're-discovered' by the Orthodox (the non-radical kind) and the Catholics in the 20th century; though such an ecclesiology was never really lost. Cavanaugh's "Torture and Eucharist" clearly expresses what such an ecclesiology can look like, and has looked like, particularly in the case of the Catholic church in Chile under Pinochet. The implications of the book, however, apply beyond Catholic circles to other churches as well. I use it in classes I've taught on ecclesiology, classes that are filled with Catholics and Protestants. It might be worth your while to interview Cavanaugh for the podcast, particularly if you're interested in further exploring the relationship between the Eucharist and community. I love what's going on here at this site and on the podcasts. REALLY solid stuff, though you don't need me to tell you that.

MAGuyton
MAGuyton

 @Da stand das Meer  @DenikaAnderson  @BoSanders  @jeffinanutshell When I was in a morning mass in Saginaw, Michigan in early 2003, the priest said that: "Become what you receive" and at that moment I had this vision of the whole body of Christ being instantiated in that instant like when you plug in Christmas tree lights for the first time. I do think that Christ inhabits certain sacred objects with more intensity than reality in general, but obviously being the Word of God, He's the source of each of our existence as well, so the Zwinglian perspective isn't wrong either.

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @GregHillis  thanks for the follow up . As @jeffinanutshell said (and I will take further)  He may not claim them but they DO claim him.  

 

SO while you may be commenting on the quality of the grain in the 'silo' (theoretically) I am commenting on the fermented drip of silage come from the tap that make RO types dizzy.   ;)  -Bo

 

p.s. I am REALLY glad that you wrote it and appreciate the pushback a lot.  I will look into what you said deeper.  

Da stand das Meer
Da stand das Meer

 @jeffinanutshell Point taken - but again it's a both-and, a circular motion as it is the community which celebrates the Eucharist, and is perpetually transformed into the Body of Christ as it does so...

 

Another point that's often not emphasized enough is the unifying role of the Spirit, both indwelling the people of God and making the bread and wine the Body and Blood of Christ for us. That's why the epiclesis, the invocation of the Spirit, is so significant (and here there's much to learn from the Eastern Christian tradition).

jeffinanutshell
jeffinanutshell

 @Da stand das Meer  

 

I quite like the "become what you receive" line , thanks for bringing that to the conversation.

 

I have no problem with the notion that Christ is really present in the elements if the real presence of Christ is being embodied within the community. I cannot, however, assume that Christ is present simply because of the symbolic presence of the Eucharist is being claimed. In other words, it is the authenticity within the community that makes the presence real in the symbol, not the symbol which brings the presence to the community. In that sense the "magic" of the Eucharist happens in 'reverse' to the traditional concept (as I know it).

jeffinanutshell
jeffinanutshell

 @BoSanders Thanks for the compliment, if you knew how long it took me to craft blog comments, you wouldn't be so impressed. :) Really though, I rarely post on blogs because it can easily eat up a good portion of my day. I am impressed by the not only the quality but speed and consistency of your posts.

 

We are on the same page except 3)b. There are a good number of thinkers who have written about this theme, yes, but I find Cavanaugh's form and content to be exceptional and worth delving into. And while setting up binaries and offering a "third" way can be easy, I quite like the way he uses the method in Being Consumed. I also read my own vision of the Eucharist onto his work, so I would have to reread it to see if it isn't actually there. However, I didn't stumble across much that set off any alarm bells for me. 

Da stand das Meer
Da stand das Meer

 @DenikaAnderson  @BoSanders  @jeffinanutshell Excellent discussion going here and great to hear a variety of perspectives.

 

I don't agree with Rob Bell on everything, but here he's singing to my tune...

 

My question is why this has to be an 'either-or' and not a 'both-and' - why can't we affirm both the presence of Christ in the horizontal dimension of fellowship (in the power of the Spirit and for service in the world) as well as the 'real presence' in the elements, a notion that at least half of Global Christianity regards as foundational? Myself included here for all sorts of reasons (existential, historical, phenomenological). In French Catholic churches round my neighbourhood they often sing Augustine's words 'devenez ce que vous recevez' during communion: 'become what you receive', i.e. the Body of Christ, which seems as good a summary as any of something that is impossible to summarize.

jeffinanutshell
jeffinanutshell

 @GregHillis  Greg, I am sorry that you felt I was lumping Cavanaugh into the RO camp, that was not my intention. There are certain things that Bo was responding to (in another article on Cavanaugh and in our discussion here) that carry a certain amount of baggage (or pull a lot of weight, depending on your take). The practice of the Eucharist as a path by which to ward off consumerism (or any other modern, liberal evil) is one theme in Radical Orthodoxy that  overlaps with Cavanaugh's analysis in Being Consumed. Perhaps unfairly to Cavanaugh, his work has been quite readily taken up by the RO crowd: http://www.calvin.edu/~jks4/ro/robib.pdf . They clearly see a connection between his work and their own school of thought even if there are clear and distinct differences.

 

So when I said "outside of the RO implications" I was not categorizing Cavanaugh as a member of that school of thought, but connecting this particular strand of his thought with the greater implications that I believe both Bo and I are a little skeptical of. 'RO implications' was meant as a shorthand reference, but the antecedent may not have been clear, so for that I apologize. 

 

I am, in fact, a great admirer of Cavanaugh as well, though I have only recently discovered him. As I will respond to Bo's comments, I think he is a little less charitable to him than he could be, but I do understand what I take to be his wider concern.

GregHillis
GregHillis

 @BoSanders  @jeffinanutshell As a Catholic and a great admirer of William Cavanaugh, I'm very curious about your categorization of Cavanaugh as being in the Radical Orthodoxy camp.  If you ask Bill, he is quite clear that he is not in this camp.  Moreover, to lump him in with the Radical Orthodoxy movement is to miss the distinctly Catholic concerns of his work, particularly in terms of developing a Eucharistic ecclesiology in line with early Christian thinking as recounted by such heavyweights as Henri de Lubac (and codified in the documents of Vatican II).  Can you say a bit more about why you consider him as being in the R.O. movement?

DenikaAnderson
DenikaAnderson

 @BoSanders  @jeffinanutshell I think I agree with you both but I got there by a very different road. I dig the sacramental/liturgical Holy Communion (to the point where I "broke" my undergrad's no-drinking rule in its covenant to take Communion over Lent), and it matters a great deal to me. I've written a couple posts on it (shameless plug: http://wanderingthedesert.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/lutheran-lent/) and for me, it's less about my union with my community and more the fact that Christ's body and blood allows me to be invited to the Table with the Trinity. However, I think it's important for those who hold the same view as me to take that into the world and remember that Jesus died for everyone, that I have no right to be exclusive and if I'm going to try to be like Jesus I need to be as opening and welcoming as Jesus is, and thus I need to (lowercase-c) commune with the people I encounter. 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @jeffinanutshell  I am impressed with your writing.  Your thoughts are so clear and inspiring. WOW! 

 

Let me riff on all the things I agree with in your post: 

1) Eucharist can be therapeutic. I am just nervous that with sentimental symbolism (I'm very cynical about the whole thing) that is can be only therapeutic.  In that case, I'd rather just grab pizza with friends and call it 'having communion'. 

2) It does center our story when done well. In fact, the first sermon series at our new gathering is called 'Centering the Story'.

3) IF the liturgical ceremony reminds us that there is a deeper reality to be lived out when we leave the 4 walls of the church building ... then YES I would be all for it. 

3) The are so many other greater thinkers and writers on 'the Table' that there is no need to take on Cavenaugh's collateral baggage of Rad. Orth. Too many other good resources out there to try and wade through RO and salvage even a quote as good as that one  ;)

 

-Bo