This is a picture I took a couple of years back just after I left The Salvation Army. Coming face to face with the unfamiliar practice of sharing bread and wine in the context of worship, I wanted to ‘artistically’ unpack my own theology of these Christian symbols. This is the best place for them, I think. On the street, inviting all to come and share in the mystery and nourishment that following Jesus brings.
Its taken me a bit of a journey to ‘get into’ it. The main reason being is that there are a couple of things that don’t sit well in my mind:
1. Firstly, in public worship, the sharing of bread and wine is separated from a wider community meal. This robs some of the ‘every dayness’ of using these symbols to remember Jesus.
2. Secondly, the portion sizes are all wrong in my humble opinion! The little tiny cups and tiny morsels of brown bread feels silly. I’d rather take time over slightly more and allow the textures and tastes to speak a bit longer.
3. Thirdly, the sharing of these things can be so very sombre and to me, remembering isn’t always sombre…it is joyful and can be happy to. The ‘jolliest’ communion I remember was at Holy Trinity Brompton where there seemed to be a life about what was happening.
4. Fourthly, I have questions about ‘presidency.’ There is debate in some circles about who can lead the whole thing. I count it a privilege to do so, indeed, and its different in each church tradition, but my basic theory is that its Jesus meal and Jesus’ invitation to explore and remember him in this way. But that might just be me…
I’m not overly fussed with religiosity, pomp and ceremony, it leaves me cold, but what never leaves me is my desire to follow in the ways of Jesus, seeking to live a life which exemplifies all that he stands for and all that he wants his followers to accomplish in the world. More than that, I want to flesh out his life where I am.
I see this meal not as an empty ritual to be discarded, but a missional meal for the journey. A reminder to carry around the story of the people of God, to allow it to shape our walk, and to remind us to be nourishment and refreshment to those we meet as we serve in the name of the Suffering Servant.
In many settings, the beauty and creativity of this symbolic sharing needs to be explored and re-evaluated that its treasure might inspire a new generation as it has all the way since Abraham and Melchizadek started the whole thing!