Walking in the Footsteps of Christ – Day 19
Wednesday after 3rd Sunday of Lent
A Lenten Journey with the Rule of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis
These Reflections which take the Rule of the Third Order as their springboard, were originally published in Lent 2012 are being republished during Easter 2020 as a way of deepening our faith during the Covid19 pandemic which is affecting the whole world
From the Principles:
The First Way of Service – Prayer (continued)
The heart of our prayer is the Eucharist, in which we share with other Christians the renewal of their union with their Lord and Saviour in his sacrifice, remembering his death and receiving his spiritual food.
From St Francis:
Our Attitude to Receiving Christ in the Eucharist
Receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ with great humility and with veneration, remembering the words of the Lord: ‘Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life’ (John 6.54); and, ‘Do this is remembrance of me’ (Luke 22.19). (Rule of 1221, Chapter XX)
‘In this world’ says Simone Weil ‘we must be content to be perpetually hungry’. She is not counselling against the reception of the Body and the Blood of Christ but rather warning us that, if we are not careful, we will find our hunger satisfied and our thirst slaked by the food of this world and then no longer hunger for the food of the heavenly banquet.
Apart from our Lord’s explicit command (unless you eat….) this is another reason why we should meet together to share the holy meal. To give us strength for the present journey and hope for the future joy. If we do not do so our prayer will have no heart. Since the days of the church at Corinth it has always been tempting for followers of the Way to see the shared meal as a time for satisfying bodily needs instead of addressing spiritual hunger.
Now in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18For, to begin with, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and to some extent I believe it. 19Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine. 20When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk. 22What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I commend you? In this matter I do not commend you! (1 Corinthians 11.17-22)
How we share the Eucharist will demonstrate how united we are as a church. Yes, I know communion is no longer a ‘bring your own’ affair (unless you are a coeliac – more of which below) but it can become a place of ‘polite enmity’ instead of sweet unity. Sometimes sharing the Peace with fellow worshippers has felt like pulling teeth. If we are not united at the centre of the Eucharist then we are a church with a broken heart.
The scandal of church disunity remains something about which we should repent each day. Why do we deny each other the food of heaven? As if somehow the table we eat at belongs to the Church of England or the meal we share is called the Roman Catholic Supper. Is it not The Lord’s Supper? Is it not The Lord’s Table? How dare we claim ownership of God’s free gift!
But we do not have to look beyond our denominational boundaries to discover that our church can be a kind of spiritual ‘broken hearts’ club. How often have we rehearsed the senseless old arguments over the use of wafers instead of bread or grape juice instead of wine, and even, white wine over red wine! How futile these arguments are? How much good gospel time has been wasted on them? How many people have turned away from God because we have been feeding our faces instead of offering spiritual food and drink to a famished world?
In moments of frivolity, which is sometimes the only way to cope when the church gets really stupid, I dream of writing ‘the Good Communion Wine Guide’ for the discerning Churchgoer. I also wonder what would happen if we used Choc Chip Cookies and Bacardi Breezers for the Eucharist – at least the younger generation may find themselves more welcome.
We are not yet the one Church God calls us to be. The means Jesus gave to bring us together is a simple meal. The Eucharist is indeed the heartbeat of our prayers for, in the life transforming symbols of broken bread and spilt wine, we find the strength to offer our own sacrifice of thanksgiving. Renewed by Him we receive the food for the journey ahead. It is indeed the centre of our prayer – that’s why it is soul food.
NOTE: During this time when many churches across the world are locked and no one is receiving communion we may find it good to ponder how we will welcome people to the Lord’s Table in future. We have an opportunity to provide soul food for everyone, are we up to the challenge God lays before us?
Jesus, I receive your love
poured out for me
in bread and wine.
Accept this gift of my life,
brought to the altar
Do your work in me,
and let me be, like you,
and given for others;
for, in spite of my sin,
you know that I love you.
After the Corona Virus lockdown is lifted…
Go to an additional Eucharist in the week ahead.
Go to the Eucharist but do not receive the bread and the wine.
Go to the Eucharist in a denomination other than your own.
Reflect on how the experience felt to you.
99 Words to Breathe:
There is a great approaching
that we shun as much as death,
it is the completion of our birth.
It does not come in time,
but in timelessness
when the mind sinks into the heart
and we remember.
It is an insistent grace that draws us
to the edge and beckons us surrender
safe territory and enter our enormity.
We know we must pass
and fear the shedding.
Pulled by our homesickness
through forgotten ghosts
and unexpected angels
there is nothing left to say
but we are That.
And That is what we sing about.
Stephen Levine poet, writer and teacher
A Gluten Free Church?
A small question to ask those who provide the elements for the eucharist in your church.
What prevents a church from using only gluten free wafers and gluten free bread for everyone in the church? I find it sad that that part of the Body of Christ which is gluten intolerant often has to bring their own bread to the common meal, or, if the church does provide gluten free bread/wafers have to receive their common food separately to others.
What a powerful symbol it would be if we could all eat the same food?
I know Gluten free foods are more expensive than others but how much would it cost, in the grand scheme of things if only Gluten free products were used by the church?
Is this not a price worth paying to demonstrate the unity of the Church?
…and what about only using Fair Trade wine for communion as well?
In our church we would like to start baking our own gluten free communion wafers – the commercial firms charge a very high premium making it difficult for churches to use only GF wafers. If anyone knows where we can obtain a disused wafer press, or one that might be available for little cost, I would love to hear from you. Our aim is to set up a GF wafer kitchen under the supervision of a Christian who is a coeliac and provide wafers to the wider church at cost price.
‘The Principles’ are from the Rule of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis – this version amended for corporate reading by Andrew Dotchin
‘The Words of Francis’ are from ‘Through the Year with Francis of Assisi’ selected and translated by Murray Bodo – copyright © Collins Fount 1988
Prayers are from ‘The Book of a Thousand Prayers’ compiled by Angela Ashwin – copyright © Zondervan 1996
‘You have breath for no more than 99 Words. What would they be?’ were collected by Liz Gray – copyright © DLT 2011
These Reflections, ‘Walking in the Footsteps of Christ’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged