Friday, December 28, 2012

The Sacrament is Strangely Absent for Many

No love that in a family dwells,
No caroling in frosty air,
No all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare-
That God was Man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.
 -G.K. Chesterton
Quoted from New Reflections on Advent,
 Donald Neary, p. 81

I've come to admire and appreciate the weekly Mass that many Roman Catholic churches provide for their parishioners who simply can't get to church. No matter where I visit church members in health care facilities, it seems mid-week Mass is offered.

That the Eucharist is a celebration of the real presence of Jesus is the reason for its importance in the Anglo- Catholic tradition, and thus, why the Catholic observance seems more available for long term care residents and hospital patients than are the Protestant offerings of Holy Communion and the Lord's Supper.  

Even though United Methodists teach that Christ is present in the bread and cup in a "spiritual manner," most of us follow the pattern of Protestant practice. That is, we give the Eucharist lesser importance generally, and this is reflected in fewer opportunities for off-site Communion- with people we could be reaching. 

Wouldn't you appreciate any and all attempts to celebrate the Sacrament? Recognizing the presence of Jesus (Luke 24:30, 35) is a one of the great gifts of our faith. Moreover, United Methodism's Open Table tradition is at once sacramental and evangelical: one and all are invited, whomever desires it, no if and-s or but-s.

A renewed practice of the Holy Meal means ministry in the forgotten places with those who have been pushed to the margins of power and privilege. It's emergent Christianity in a pure form. The Apostle James cites visiting widows and orphans in their affliction and keeping unstained from the world as the defining practices of authentic religion. James 1:26-27  It's also about being unhindered by the voices of apathy and neglect within and around us.

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