Beads have been scattered, cake crumbs ground into the floor; and now it is time to clean up after the party. Today marks the beginning of Lent. I am a thoroughly Protestant person, which means that while I do not have a long history of having to give up chocolate or sweets, it is more difficult for me to participate in a way that makes Lent meaningful. No matter how sincere, doing something for Lent always feels like I’m crashing in on someone else’s gig. Not only that, if I don’t follow through, it doesn’t really matter (or so it seems).

But this year I am taking a course on the Eucharist in which we will be tracing its liturgical history. In an interesting fate of timing, we arrive at the Reformation during Holy Week. With that in mind, my goal this year is to make the bread and the wine my Lenten reflection. Hopefully I’ll get some of those thoughts transcribed from my journal (and polished a little) to post here.

As I study liturgies of the very early church–even the biblical texts–demonstrate some ambiguity around how Jesus followers are to partake in the bread and the wine. Sometimes, simply bread is broken (Acts 2.42, 46; 20.7). Paul directs the Corinthians to make the meal more equitable by reiterating the institution narrative (1 Corinthians 10-11). In some of these texts, it may not be entirely clear if the meal was open to those who had not been baptized into the community–a requirement which the Didache states beyond a doubt. Most surprisingly, the phrase “on the night Jesus was betrayed…” is not always present (true for the Anaphora of Addai and Mari).

After Vatican II there has been a reorientation around the communion table that has spread across North American denominations and nondenominations. Yet, what is it we are celebrating? Or are we simply remembering? Is the Lord’s table fenced, or can we dine with sinners and the unbaptized? Do traditions matter? Whose feast is this, really?

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