Archives for posts with tag: communion

A theological reflection on saving a Christian college campus.

I am home now. As in, abandoned prairie dreams to come back to the Pacific Northwest with its layers of mountains and hills, moody shifts in grey hues, waterlogged air, and the smell of low tide. It is fortunate that I can complete my research away from school at this point, and even tailor it to this region. The thought of learning Chicago watersheds for my studies in baptism felt daunting.

Coming home has its share of mixed feelings, particularly when my memory is taxed with recalling what ‘used to be’ on that corner instead of the shiny tall thing that looms overhead. So, when I saw the article in the local news about an old Bible school coming due for demolition, I started reading closely. Sure enough, I remembered the place–vaguely, but well enough.

I can’t remember if it was a vacation Bible school, or simply a weekend retreat that took me to the Lutheran Bible Institute in Issaquah, but I remember her. Her name was similar to mine, Kirstin, she had straight, blonde hair, and she sang in the a cappella music group at the Bible school. I remember feeling so enamored with her, like she could be my big sister. We may have even exchanged a few letters as pen pals. I remember, too, the buildings that felt a little old, but in that vertical NW, mod quirky kind of way. At that time, about the only difference I knew existed between the Lutherans and Presbyterians (such as I was), had to do with the color robes their clergy wore on Sundays. Yet I would have signed up to go to LBI in a heartbeat; especially if it meant singing alongside my new friend such lyric hits as, “It’s about as useful as a screen door on a submarine. / Faith without works…”

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that one of the local megachurches owns the property now, and that they have an interest in selling it. But in a region with few religious landmarks, the thought of losing a 1960s chapel and school with a unique history (the Lutherans bought it from the Catholics) is dispiriting. Surely another religious organization would think so, too? Or is a generic evangelical church focused on being young and relevant simply deaf to any cries of history or tradition? I wonder, then, if this isn’t a case of good old North American pragmatism. The church is not a building, it is wherever two or more are gathered in the name of Jesus Christ–so goes the logic.

Shouldn’t a place where the broken, risen body of Christ has been shared, given and communed across time and denominations mean something?

For nearly ten years I worshiped in a space that was built by the Methodists, then occupied by a brewery, a disco, the Baptists, and some other commercial interests during its 100+ year history (not to mention squirrels and other critters in the attic). Houses of worship that have been around for a while feel different. There is a kind of spatial patina that can rub off on unsuspecting visitors, enriching the music, the prayers, the communion of saints. At times in church, I could sense the hopes and desires of past parishioners. My great-grandparents never worshiped there, but someone’s did.

The Providence Heights space is unique as a theological school, first for nuns, then for Lutheran women and men. Let me repeat that: the school was built to educate women first. It may be tempting to be dismissive of a training school for Catholic nuns, but considering how difficult it still is–globally speaking–for women to receive any kind of dedicated theological education, let’s just say this is significant. While the chapel was not a community church per se, it served as a basin for the missio Dei, and a nest from which hopeful young Christians followed the call of the Spirit to the world.

Surely, a fellow religious organization such as City Church, with its focus on developing relevant leaders for the world, would understand such a history?

At a time when property values are soaring out of reach, churches are shrinking, and decisions for survival must be made on a purely economic basis, does City Church (or any church) have a responsibility to history or tradition? What does it look like to honor the people who have gone before in particular places; who have celebrated the Lord’s supper, and proclaimed his death and resurrection in these walls? This week of Pentecost, I pray for a creative solution for the people of Issaquah, for City Church, and the Providence Heights campus. Come, Holy Spirit, and breathe new life.

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?

Today is a significant day in U.S. history–a day when we became incredibly vulnerable.

Forgive me if I say that last year felt as though it should have mattered more, somehow. It was the ten year marker post-9/11. Yes, there was plenty of media coverage on it, but society careens onward and, while families and first responders feel the vastness of the loss acutely, the rest of us can merely stand by and take a moment. Perhaps this view from the West Coast is askew. It may seem strange that I want us to feel it more, yet it’s difficult to remember something I personally did not experience. …and yet, I attempt to do this very thing quite often.

Take this, my body, which is given for you.”  The words of Jesus spoken each week at churches around the world remind us that there is a strange mystery shrouding death, grief, loss, communion and the act of remembrance itself.

Loss rips us open, turns our insides out and, for a time, makes us raw. Everything hurts–what is intended to be a soft gesture from a friend pricks with searing heat. With the loss of a relationship comes a loss of control (even if it was illusory). Not manipulative control, but a kind of control over our emotions, our own self; a kind of knowing what to expect from the day. Those we love bring constancy in life’s perpetual experimentation. Our close relationships offer a kind of control factor, and when one goes, we’re suddenly barraged with free radicals from all directions. Not even the calendar is safe: birthdays, anniversaries, date nights are cast in the glow of a dark and somber hue. Loss makes us believe we will never be whole again.

“Time heals all wounds” is perhaps one of the biggest lies we could ever tell someone. The only thing time does is harden the tissue around the wound and bring scarring. When loss opens us up, we immediately begin to look for something/someone to put in its place. At the core of our being, we are hardwired for healing. We want to be whole, we need to feel complete. Grief, the companion to loss, reminds us that we are broken, missing pieces, that we are bound to others and those bonds can break.

Do we need to remember such pain? Do we need to know we’re vulnerable? Perhaps this is different for you, but I’ve noticed that it can take a series of losses before any one of us truly begin to understand just how connected we are and how we need to be with and for one another. What remembering can do is to give some structure to grief and loss, a framework or ladder for growing out of abysmal hurt. Remembering requires doing something, thinking something, consistently and regularly. Like lighting candles for prayer, there is ritual in remembering. But it isn’t just up to ourselves to practice the ritual. Some healing comes with quiet moments. More healing will come when we  invite others to practice remembering with us. One definition for communion is “intimate communication.” This is not a solo venture. The perception that we are to experience grief on our own, to somehow ‘get over’ our loss without others is a lie from the enemy of our souls.

This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant.”  Here’s a mystery: remembering death is a way to life.

The covenant Jesus offers through his death is the same Yahweh offered Abraham–to be with us individually and corporately. Emmanuel, God with us, is the proclamation of communion, before we can say, “death, where is your sting?”

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You, O Lord, are with me.