02 Feb Worshiping, Eating, Praying & Meeting
This weekend we have an opportunity to experience Presbyterianism at its best. On Saturday morning, the Presbyterian Women will hold their annual Prayer Gathering. This will be held virtually, eliminating weather, Covid, distance, or inconvenience as impediments to participation. There is nothing more vital than the church at prayer, so if at all possible, I encourage you to attend.
After worship on Sunday, we will have our Annual Congregational Meeting. This will be a hybrid event, with both virtual and in-person attendance. I am looking forward to this opportunity to reflect together on last year because it is so obvious how God blessed us and was at work in and through us in 2021. We will, as we do each year, conduct the required business of the church—convening a meeting of the corporation, approving my terms of call (I trust!), and electing a new member to the Nominating Committee. And, we’ll review the 2021 budget and present the 2022 budget. In preparation for this meeting, you can read the 2021 Annual Report here.
Before the annual meeting starts, of course, we will worship together including gathering at the Lord’s Table. Both worship and Communion are visible, tactile reminders that before we do the work of the church, we must be the church. Last week, one of Father Richard Rohr’s daily meditations spoke eloquently about Jesus’ eating habits. I share it with you in the hope that this will help us all be better prepared when we partake of the communion meal (what he calls the Eucharist) whether we will do so in our pew in the sanctuary or at home:
“God’s major problem in liberating humanity has become apparent to me as I consider the undying recurrence of hatred of the other, century after century, in culture after culture and religion after religion.”
Can you think of an era or nation or culture that did not oppose otherness? I doubt there has ever been such a sustained group. There have been enlightened individuals, thank God, but seldom established groups—not even in churches, I’m sorry to say. The Christian Eucharist was supposed to model equality and inclusivity, but we turned the Holy Meal into an exclusionary game, a religiously sanctioned declaration and division into groups of the worthy and the unworthy—as if we were worthy!
Before Christianity developed the relatively safe ritual meal we call the Eucharist, Jesus’ most consistent social action was eating in new ways and with new people, encountering those who were oppressed or excluded from the system. It seems Jesus didn’t please anybody by breaking rules to make a bigger table. Notice how his contemporaries accused Jesus: one side criticized him for eating with tax collectors and sinners (see Matthew 9:10–11). The other side judged him for eating too much (Luke 7:34) or dining with the Pharisees and lawyers (Luke 7:36–50; 11:37–54; 14:1). Jesus ate with all sides. He ate with lepers (Mark 14:3), he received a woman with a poor reputation at a men’s dinner (Luke 7:36–39), and he even invited himself to a “sinner’s” house (Luke 19:1–10). How do we not see that?
It seems we ordinary humans must have our other! It appears we don’t know who we are except by opposition and exclusion. “Where can my negative energy go?” is the enduring human question; it must be exported somewhere. Sadly, it never occurs to us that we are the negative energy, which then sees and also creates that negative energy in others. The ego refuses to see this in itself. Seeing takes foundational conversion from the egoic self and most have not undergone that transformation. We can only give away the goodness (or the sadness) that we ourselves have experienced and become.
Eucharist is meant to identify us in a positive, inclusionary way, but we are not yet well-practiced at this. We honestly do not know how to do unity. Many today want to make the Holy Meal into a “prize for the perfect,” as Pope Francis observed. Most Christians still do not know how to receive a positive identity from God—that they belong and are loved by their very nature! The Eucharistic meal is meant to be a microcosmic event, summarizing at one table what is true in the whole macrocosm: we are one, we are equal in dignity, we all eat of the same divine food, and Jesus still and always “eats with sinners,” just as he did when on Earth.”
(January 25, 2022, Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation from the Center for Action and Contemplation.)
I look forward to worshiping and eating with you at Christ’s Table on Sunday, then sharing together our hopes for Calvary in this new year.
Yours for the Kingdom,