COMMUNION IN A TIME OF COVID – some thoughts for discussion
My son was killed some years ago in an accident. I remember him mostly when I do things that we did together. I don’t need any other intervention. Just me and my memory.
Arguably the first disciples remembered meals they had with Jesus in the same way. The New English Bible then described the first followers of Jesus going to the temple and in their homes ‘sharing their meals together with unaffected joy’. Paul describes what had been remembered of Jesus last meal with his disciples. He includes the words of Jesus, ‘do this in remembrance of me. The word ‘remembrance’ translates the word ‘anamnesis’. This literally means ‘re-member’, that is to reassemble that meal whenever they shared bread or wine – an ordinary meal. We are also told that we will eat unworthily if we do not discern ‘the body of Christ’.
No mention here of Bishops, Priests or Deacons. No church. A meal at home. People sharing with each other and trying to capture the essence of that last meal with Jesus: prayers, bread broken, wine shared. We are all equal under God, but over years we have decided humanly that someone set aside should emulate Jesus. If we are all truly equal we do not need that setting apart. We are, truly, a Priesthood of all Believers. Yet we honour that in word, but not in practice. The followers in Acts would, I think, find it, perhaps, pretentious that we would today be worrying over who, in our terms, ‘presides’. What are we trying to re-member? Arguably what was encapsulated in the sharing of that last meal. Sadly we risk reducing it into mechanical actions and specific words, or debate about what happens to the bread and wine, or who does what. That feels strange and it should. The arguments and statutes were laid down by people like us as the church was seeking to concretise them by circa 2OO CE, perhaps a matter of control, but sadly missing the central focus of an acted parable.
Around that first last meal was a disparate group of men who, if they candidated for ministry today might well be rejected. What is significant is not the ‘Elements’ but the people. Their leader washes their feet. He accepts two argumentative brothers, a terrorist (zealot), one who denies and another who betrays – a misbegotten group – an embryo church. This group is The Body of Christ and those who meet together for this anamnesis are The Body of Christ. We are the ones who should discern the value and significance of one another, our neighbours, our sisters and brothers and that is what really matters, to see Christ in each other and be Christ to each other.
I recognise the discipline of the church, but at a time like this I really think we are missing the point. If sharing bread and wine with each other is a means by which we value each other and therefore offer a means of grace how we do it, where we do it and with whom we do it matters little. The status of the so called ‘President’ is irrelevant.
I write this in my own name and not that of the Methodist Church but it is, as Fred Kaan once wrote, ‘a sacrament of care’ that could ‘fill a human house with love’ –
To fill each human house with love,
it is the sacrament of care;
the work that Christ began to do
we humbly pledge ourselves to share.
From: ‘Now let us from this table rise’ Fred Kaan (1929-2009 © 1968 Stainer & Bell Ltd