The Body and the Blood
I taught the middle and high school Confirmation Class last Sunday. The subject was the Eucharist, and the trigger word (at least the word I was watching out for) was cannibalism. Some of us have an answer for this jab. Some of us have just ignored this allusion. Some of us are as confused by it as our 13-18 year olds. Reading the Bible for clarity might not be helpful.
“Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:19-20)
Maybe the great Jesus interpreter Paul can shed some light on this idea. Wrong. He writes in his first letter to the Corinthians:
“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Cor 11:23-25)
Most of us know these words by heart. You’ll be happy to know that most of the 17 young people in the Confirmation Class knew them by heart as well. That counts for a bunch, but it is even more fruitful to have a theology that undergirds this unfamiliar, if not uncomfortable, language.
Let’s break the conversation into three parts. First there is the core idea that Jesus shared with his disciples over and over again: We are to be like him and maybe even greater than he. That is his expectation.
“Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these…” (John 14:12a)
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:19-20).
The spiritual life is meant to be a pattern of living that calls us to be our best selves. Jesus set the pattern, not so we live as first century wandering rabbis, but so we live our lives as Jesus would live our life if he were you or me.
Which brings us to the second point: the bread as Jesus’ body. When you hear the word “body,” touch your arm. Feel your presence? That is the point of Jesus using the word body; it is meant to ignite in our minds physical being. Jesus wants us to be his physical presence in the world right now, alive as his royal priesthood. That idea is pulled from the Old Testament (Exo 25:30), where the bread of presence was put on the high altar then consumed by the high priest. It was eaten as if having dinner with God. Under the reign of Jesus we are all part of the royal priesthood, and so we all have access of the bread of presence as a reminder of our calling to be the presence of Jesus in the world.
But Jesus wants us to be more than just his presence, which brings us to my third and final point: the wine as his blood. He wants us to be his spirit, his vitality, his charisma, his dynamism. In the olden days, certainly in the days of Jesus, people believed that blood represented a being’s vitality, energy, and power. The wine we drink is to fill us with Jesus’ power.
We are to be his presence in the world, and we are to be his power in the world.
Each week we receive the Eucharist, the body and blood of Jesus, to remind us of our mission to be his presence and power in the world. The communion meal, at least to my mind, is more than a representative meal; it is soul food. We eat to internalize in our soul the reality of this extraordinary gift Jesus has given us through this sacred meal. He moved the bread of presence from an exclusive purview of the chosen to a universal reality for all people. The Eucharist says we are all welcome; holy, and made in God’s image. That is God’s perspective, and sometimes it is hard to see, which is why the Eucharist is also a mystery. We meet it in the bread and wine… that we are all beloved, included, and part of this royal priesthood. The sacred meal not only reminds us of that, but also fills us, mysteriously, with that reality which is why Holy Communion is also called by its original name, Eucharist. It is the Greek word for THANK YOU.
Last Chance to Join the Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
Epiphany will soon be finalizing registrations for our pilgrimage to the Holy Land! The dates of the trip are December 27, 2017 – January 10, 2018 which coincides with Orthodox Christmas. It includes three nights in Nazareth and 8 nights in Jerusalem. Are you interested in joining the pilgrimage? If so, we’d love to include you. Please reach out as soon as possible to Charissa Bradstreet at email@example.com to express interest and receive details on the itinerary, associated costs, and payment schedule. Registrations and deposit are due by the end of September. Materials on the pilgrimage are also available in the church office – look for the Holy Land Pilgrimage slot in the mailbox area. Thank you!
An Example of Positive Relationships Scaling Up
Below is the first weekly update of the year for the C.S. Lewis Minyan. The Minyan meets on Thursdays at 8:30 am beginning October 12th in the Church Library. If you’d like to join the Minyan or receive the weekly mailings please email Jonathan Roberts firstname.lastname@example.org.
The C. S. Lewis Minyan will kick off the year with a discussion of Eric Metaxas’ book Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery. It’s a bit of a digression from Lewis, but Wilberforce is an exemplar of all of Lewis’ biblically inspired themes that run throughout his books. Wilberforce was Christ-centric and deeply relational. He believed in the power of good and the insidiousness of evil; he kept moving towards a noble objective. On Sunday, October 8, I’ll be giving a presentation on Wilberforce at the 10 am “Everybody Hour” in the Great Hall. There are multiple copies of Metaxas’ book in the Church Library for you to take and read.
Like you, I wonder how we’re going to get to a better place individually, collectively, nationally, and globally. Glimpses of answers pop up every week in the newspaper. The last couple of weeks have given us countless stories of people helping people survive hurricanes Harvey and Irma. When I read these articles, I tear up a little bit and say “yes, this is the way.” How does this observation translate into action? Whenever I try to figure something out I look for a historical precedent. When I try to think of a group of people that mobilized grace to bring about positive change, Wilberforce rises to the top of the list.
I’d also note that this observation that positive change is brought about by grace and the intentional and transforming relationships it enables is not broadly understood. The definitive book on how humankind has become less violent is Steven Pinker’s 800-page monster entitled The Better Angels of Our Nature. A few years ago, around graduation time, Bill Gates tweeted, “If I could give each of you a graduation present, it would be this [Pinker’s book]- the most inspiring book I’ve ever read.” Pinker shows that from the Stone Age through to the present humans are slowly killing each other less. Did you know, for instance, that almost half of Ice Age remains discovered reveal that the individuals died a violent death? Pinker reflects that “the decline of violence may be the most significant and least appreciated development in the history of our species.” Where Pinker falls short is explaining why this decline has happened. He talks about the work of Richard Dawkins and other social biologists and also outlines the economic benefits of not killing each other. As a confirmed atheist, he takes a very, very dim view of religion and views it as a negative force. This leads to tremendous blind spots. Obviously, the ending of slavery in the 19th century is a huge milestone on the long march to reduce human violence and Pinker discusses it for a number of pages. The truly remarkable thing is he is able to talk about the Abolition movement without mentioning William Wilberforce! I can’t think of a historian on the planet who would do that, but I guess a Harvard psychologist can get away with it. Pinker covers the objective facts but he misses the operating mechanism for the change. It’s a little bit like Newton and gravity. He can see things happening but he has no idea why they happen.
Pinker is not alone. We all intuitively know how positive change occurs on a personal and perhaps community level. But as a society, we haven’t internalized that the change facilitated by positive relationships scales up. Good things and bad things between humans don’t just happen, they occur through the aggregation of positive or negative human interactions. The beauty of history is that we can unroll these interactions and see the patterns and processes. Who knows? Maybe we can even emulate them!
I look forward to seeing you at Church and in the Minyan in a few weeks.
Discernment Corner: Change! It’s doesn’t have to be a bad thing…
Pretty much the only constant (in addition to the ever-presence of Love) is that everything always changes. Children grow up, parents age, jobs change, or maybe we ourselves develop a bit more, so our current situation no longer fits. More intentional discernment, or actively trying to figure out where God might be leading us, can be a very helpful process when we are leaning towards or are in the midst of transition or new chapter of life.
There are things that get in the way of this process: like grief, fear, anxiety, or busy-ness. But if we can pause, and trust our feelings and challenges to the infinite love of God, it doesn’t have to be so hard. Certainly, discernment in community (which we can find at Epiphany in many different ways) can make the process a bit easier.
There has been a lovely golden thread about discernment winding its way through many sermons in the past several months. We want to listen to God, we hear our preachers encouraging us to do it, but often times it’s hard to hear! Rest assured, there are techniques which can “put ourselves in the way” of God so that we can more completely discern, or understand where the Holy Spirit might be ushering us. We just need to learn how to do them, remember to do them, and remain faithful to the possibility we will hear!
This fall I’ll be teaching an introductory class on discernment and also convening a Discernment Group. The class will be Sunday, October 8th during Everybody Hour. We’ll explore the concept of discernment and I’ll introduce some tools anyone can use to engage with God as you continue your spiritual journey. This class is a prerequisite for the Discernment Group which will begin mid October.
Discernment Groups are primarily experiential, quite different from a small group. Over the course of six sessions, we will try out various discernment techniques and approaches, helping you carve out time and space to be intentional about whatever change is happening in your life. Unlike a small group, we won’t share much of our internal experience (unless it’s helpful for you!). We’ll walk a Labyrinth, pray with the Saint John’s Bible, attend a Taizé or Compline service, experience Visio Divina, and engage in a variety of exercises to look at your transition or change from different perspectives.
The Discernment Group will offer you the opportunity to explore how God might be speaking to you as you encounter and respond to change in your heart and/or your life circumstances. We will schedule the group at a time and day that works for everyone who wants to join. Most of the time we’ll meet at Epiphany, but we’ll have a few field trips as well!
If you are interested in being apart of the Discernment Group, please contact me at email@example.com or text or call 206-459-9140. There are three people interested already and I’d like to begin scheduling.
Meet New People – 20s and 30ish at Epiphany
TONIGHT! September 22 from 6 pm to 9 pm in the Fireside Room
Enjoy tapas and vino while meeting new people and engaging in lively
conversation. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in attending this fun event.
THIS SUNDAY! September 24 at 6 pm
Meet new people while learning more about Epiphany Parish and all that it has to offer. Join us at The Rev. Doyt Conn’s house for conversation, refreshments, and a sense of community. RSVP Todd at email@example.com.
Scrapbooking Affinity Group
October 7 at 5:30 in the Fireside Room
Do you have boxes of photos and memorabilia you’ve been meaning to organize? Now is your chance! Please join us for an evening of scrapbooking and fellowship. All are welcome, whether you are an accomplished scrap booker, want to organize a box of photos, work on journaling, or just come see what it’s about! Please contact Jessica Yates, (206) 931-5119, email JRYates@Live.com
Here’s a note from our intern Bailey:
Hello, my name is Bailey Kimmel. Let me start by telling you a little about myself. I am from Pennsylvania and have been in Seattle for just over two weeks. I recently graduated from Rutgers University, located in New Jersey, with a major in Animal Science and Environmental Policy, Institutions and Behavior. I’ve never met an animal I didn’t like, and my hobbies include running around outside and riding horses. My year with the Seattle Service Corps (SSC) involves a year of service and living in intentional community and is part of the national Episcopal Service Corps. I am one of 6 members in the program this year, and we are each working at a variety of different Episcopal churches and non-profits. I have the privilege of working at Epiphany for the year. I am excited to get to know and to help this wonderful parish in the coming year.
Saint Francis Day
Saturday, October 7 at 10 am in the Great Hall
Followed by Holy Eucharist in the church chancel for those who would like communion.
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45
Click here for Prayer List