Communion: the Sacred and Sensual Meal

In a church I served, several of us arrived early, positioning a couple of bread-making machines throughout the sanctuary. With the batter already inside, they were switched on. We then hurried to other chores to prepare for that Sunday’s communion service.

When worship began, the fragrance of baking bread filled the sanctuary.



I’m guessing there were random stomachs grumbling in the pews. We wanted worshippers eager for communion. We wanted them, young and old, visitors and veteran members, to anticipate the meal. Usually, communion includes a meager portion of a simple drink and a nibble of bread. And yet, the various ways Christians have celebrated communion are reminders of larger-than-life gifts. We gulp forgiveness. We are nourished with renewed life. We recall and claim Jesus’ ministry to all.

However, and whenever, the holy meal is celebrated it is a sensual moment. Taste, smell, touch, sound, and sight are all engaged. Continue reading →

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On Christmas, Mythology, and Loving My Cranky Mormon Friend

At Christmas, I posted this on Facebook,

Well . . . a Merry Christmas to my Facebook “neighborhood.” I’m enough of a still-learning student of my faith to view this day as part of a holy and humbling story. Our Christmas mythology* proclaims a birth that represented a counter-cultural and subversive tale written to challenge the hypocrisy and excess of an empire . . .

A long-time friend, once a college roommate, someone I now disagree with about politics and religion and completely agree with regarding the good San Francisco Giants vs. the evil Los Angeles Dodgers, asked about my use of mythology*. How does it apply to the Christmas story? Within the limits of Facebook personal messaging, I tried to give him a brief explanation.

I wasn’t very persuasive.

I suspect my buddy wasn’t much open to being persuaded.

To use inadequate labels, my friend is conservative compared to me. His politics veer toward the “right” while mine embrace the “left.” We are Christians, but as a United Methodist claiming progressive theological views, my faith influences don’t share much commonality with his Mormon beliefs.

For him, I think, the Christmas story is fact. Real. If Jesus’ birth didn’t happen exactly the way it was described in the Gospels, it was close enough. After all, even sacred scripture, inspired by God, may not include every single thing that happened. And so, for me to call the birth of Jesus a myth is to miss the mark. Wasn’t Christmas, as told by Matthew and Luke, an historical event in a particular place at a particular time for a particular purpose? I suspect my former roommate would confidently add that Jesus’ birth was predicted in Hebrew scriptures, a long-anticipated piece of God’s plan.

My friend is not alone in his beliefs. Continue reading →

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Faithful Fishing: in Supermarkets and Lakes

Once I observed a fellow hiker on a church backpack launch his line into a high-country lake…

My wife, loving life partner that she is, does 99.99% of our laundry.

As her self-sacrificing spouse, I shop for groceries. I am so thankful she handles the cold-water-only and take-it-to-the-dry-cleaner decisions. According to a reliable resource, she is equally grateful that I—influenced by primeval hunter-gatherer genes—wander the supermarket for our daily bread.

We each have our tasks.

The other day, my task meant that I spotted a kid, hunkered like a stowaway in a shopping cart with the milk and lettuce, wheeling toward the checkout as his Mom steered the cart. The kid’s orange-stained hand dug inside an open bag of Pepperidge Farm goldfish crackers.


And yes, a fish story.

At most four years old, he was seriously fishing. His Mom was grinning. The clerk was making small talk as he scanned items. Like a plane waiting to land, I stood next in line. I understood what was happening. There have been times, say with a cold drink on a hot day, when I handed a grocery clerk an empty bottle. Yep, scan it, let me pay for it, and then, please, recycle the container immediately. Gulping it down was a higher priority than any supermarket etiquette. Continue reading →

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