The Physicality of Memory

Two things happened this week that are connected, and which stimulated my interest.

 

The first thing was that we had some walls taken down in our living area, to make it ‘open plan’. As the plaster came off the walls, the builders discovered a pill bottle. Inside the bottle was a small cross, some Cyprus pine fronds, and a small amount of cotton wool. I was told that it is common for Greeks to place such objects in the walls or foundations of their houses to signify that they are blessed.

 

When we moved into this house, we also had a house blessing, and placed a cross over the door to signify our desire that God’s blessing be on our living n this place.

The other thing was this: Where I am being a locum (in Seymour) the intercessions each Sunday mention those who are in need of prayer. So far, this is nothing new. But then the intercessor says “and we pray for those whose names ‘lie upon our altar’. “

 

And it is true! There, on the altar, in folder are the names of the people who are in need of ongoing special prayer.

 

The thing that connects these two ‘comings to awarness’ is the sheer physicality of them both.

 

It seems that although we talk about ‘spirit8ality’ and ‘an outward and physical sign, of an inward and spiritual grace’, where we sort of prefer the grace to the mere ‘sign’, we are inextricably wedded to the physicality of things.

 

I am reminded of the way in which the ancient Hebrew priests had a breastplate with twelve jewels in it, which represented the twelve tribes of Israel. They would wear this breastplate as they went about their work, and especially as they entered into the presence of God. As they did so, they were ‘carrying the people on their hearts’.

 

This is a lovely symbol, and it could be of course done without the physical breastplate, but the union of the physical and the inner life of thought and intention is the more powerful for the union of both.

 

I also often see the roadside memorials that remind me of the places where people have died inroad crashes.

 

Psalm 103 comes to mind ‘Our days are but as grass. We flourish for a while, and the wind goes over it, and its place shall know it no more, but the merciful goodness of the Lord endures forever for those who love God.’

 

It is as if the loved ones of those who died in the crash are saying “If we do not mark this spot with some thing, then you will not know that some thing serious that has affected our lives has happened here. We want you, the driver who passes by, to know that this place (not just the person who has died) means something because of what has happened here.

 

This is what the builder of the house is saying too, by their small bottle. This place is not ‘just any old place’ but this is a place where God is invoked. It is singled out for that reason.

 

So in the Church, we fill it with symbols that speak to us of the meaning that is made as we enter the building. It is the things (clothing, windows, furnishings) that capture our attention, and then speak to us.

 

For this reason I love going around churches both in Australia and Europe, trying to ‘read’ the kinds of messages that their furnishings and other material culture are trying to send.

 

Our friends who do not know how to ‘read’ such buildings say ‘We love it coming to visit you when you take us into churches, because what is there starts to come alive. It begins to ‘speak’ to us too.

 

There are some churches that take out all of the obvious Christian symbols, or meet in factories or theatres in order not to ‘put people off’. It is as if their main activity is designed for people who do not yet know how to ‘read’ a Christian space. This is not such a bad idea, unless it stops at that. Where are the Churches that begin with a theatre, and move on to a rich Christian symbolism of dress and iconography?

 

The other thing might be a down playing, in reformation style’ of the physicality of life, for an emphasis on the ‘hearing’ of Gods Word. Some Churches of the Reformation were built precisely as ‘auditoria’ (a place for listening) so that other senses were downplayed. Some churches are set up for an experiencing of the presence of God through music (Like Taizé or Hillsong). This is also not so bad, because music is a powerful means of experience in any form, but especially when one wants to experience the presence of God.

 

But I want to make a case in this reflection for the sacramental power of god in the physicality of worship. Just as we make roadside memorials and hide blessed objects in the walls of our homes, so the combination of building, vestments, and placing of names on an altar bring us, who have the knowledge of what they mean into the sphere of God’s presence is ways that we call ‘sacraments’. We are not just embodied ‘souls’ but we are human beings, with all that we are drawn into God’s life in Church.

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Punishment And Restoration of Christians

I am sure that there are more, but from personal knowledge, I know of two priests whose licence to function as priests in their diocese has been revoked on the basis of indiscretions that happened a long time ago. None of the faults had anything to do with children. In one of the cases the damage done by the indiscretion has been repaired.

 

The thing that worries me is that both priest’s licences were removed for good, without any hope of their being a return to priestly work, at least in the diocese where they were living.

 

I am worried on a number of fronts.

 

The first has to do with proportionality. We have always believed in the idea that ‘the punishment should fit the crime’. If the only options that a bishop chooses to exercise are ecclesiastical ‘life’ or ‘death’ then there is no room for rehabilitation or return. No matter how a person may have failed, there is no sense of proportion in this kind of response.

 

But I do know of cases where proportionality has been exercised. In one case, a person who had an inappropriate relationship with a student was suspended for six months, and then reinstated. Another had their licence revoked for three years, and was then welcomed back to priestly functioning.

 

These ‘punishments’ seem to take into account, like every other form of justice, the fact that there are degrees of offence and as such there should be degrees of punishment.

 

I am also worried because the possibility of forgiveness and return is excluded. The preface to the Ash Wednesday Eucharist specifically says that Lent was kept in order to prepare those who had been excommunicated for their return at Easter.

 

St. Paul in the letter to the Corinthians speaks of how in the case of an offender in that city, the one who was excluded was then welcomed back after being excluded.

 

The treatment of these tow priests seems to me to exclude the possibility of discipline leading to a welcome return.

 

Yet the heart of the Gospel is that God was in Christ reconciling the World to himself, and us to each other.

 

To simply take away a priest’s licence without the possibility of return is in my view, to disown the main possibility that the gospel opens up for us. It is as if the bishop is acting like a boss, saying ‘You’re fired: I can easily hire some one else”. Where is the sense of the other person’s being a brother or sister in Christ?

 

To see such punishment meted out frightens all priests, and is, I think a kind of ecclesiastical terrorism because it is not proportionate, and does not allow for the possibility of forgiveness and restoration.

 

Now the thing is, that in the hope of repentance and forgiveness, many bishops have not revoked the licences of paedophile priests. The community, which is not the Church, is calling us to account for putting the reputation of the church over the needs of Children. A call which is fully justified.

 

As well, the structure of the sexuality of some paedophiles is so disordered, that any kind of return to ministry is impossible.

 

But there are those who are calling for blood because they do not believe in forgiveness and restoration. When the Church in fear acts in response to these kinds of calls, not differentiating between cases, not exercising proportionate discipline, not providing a means of rehabilitation, she denies her nature as being the Body of Christ as much as when she covers up cases of abuse.

 

This happened to the Church of England in the case of Bishop George Bell. A complainant made accusations against him, after his death, and in response the Church of England took his name from Schools, and removed memorial plaques. Yet in a further enquiry, this action was judged too hasty. It was seen as a ‘knee jerk’; reaction which was made in an effort to be sympathetic to complainants, and to do something to restore its damaged reputation.

 

If I am right, then the Church is not acting as if it lives before the face of its Lord, Jesus Christ, but instead is acting as if it exists to satisfy the demands of the community for vengeance.

 

In both the cover up of the sexual abuse of Children, and in the excessive punishment of people who are highly likely to be remorseful for their failures and who could be welcomed back after a period of time.

 

It is as if we have failed in both directions: In being too concerned for our reputation to really look at what is going on among us, and yet being too concerned with our reputation to offer forgiveness and restoration to those who are penitent. Both of these actions look to me like a turning away from the Way of Christ.

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Becoming Powerful: Tell the Truth, Take it Back.

I’ve been thinking about power recently. Let me tell you this story. I was talking to my wife about our veranda. We need to get something done to it, because it needs painting, but there are a lot of railings and vertical batons, and the painting s going to be very expensive. So I thought about putting stainless steel wire around the whole veranda. As it turns out, once we started getting quotes, we were going to be paying a lot for this wire: more than the painting would cost.

 

My wife said “Well, lets just go ahead and get the thing painted’. But I said “Well, we would still have the maintenance costs of the painting the next time” and on and on the conversation went, back and forth. Then I gave in. I felt ‘dis-empowered’ because I had, in my view ‘capitulated’: yet again. It was as if the only two options I knew about were to get my own way, or to capitulate and be powerless.

 

This is not a good thing.

 

Later, it came to me. I said to my wife ‘But the thing is, I would like to do the job with the wire. It is big, but it will save us money in the long run, but more than anything I would really like to do it.”

 

Now why could I not have known that, and said that before?

 

I could not say it before because that statement belonged to a tender part of my truth that was not accessible until a few days after the ‘capitulation’ conversation. It comes to me that power derives from being able to tell some kind of truth, that often times is hidden: both from myself and others.

 

Then I could see this kind of thing happening all over the place.

 

In the movie ‘The Revenge of the Nerds’ the ‘Nerds’ at the College spend their time with one another, but feel terrible every time one of the more ‘popular’ students belittles them, or calls them a ‘Nerd.’ Then comes the moment in the movie when the ‘chief nerd’ makes speech after their fraternity house was trashed. He says “I’m a nerd, and I’m proud of it…no one is ever going to be free until nerd persecution ends’

John and Charles Wesley developed a method of confessing their sins to one another, and of hearing truly how they come across o one another. It was such a brave thing to do. But other, smarter people at Oxford ridiculed their desire to live a holy life, and so called them ‘Methodists’.

 

And very early on, at Antioch, the ‘Followers of the Way’ began to be ridiculed, and made fun of. People called them ‘Christians’

In each of these cases, the people who are being made fun of can see the truth of the ridicule. If there were no truth in how they were being made fun of, then they could not be dis-empowered by the ridicule. But there is. The Nerds are nerds. The Methodists did have a method, and the Christians, did follow Christ.

 

But for each of them, the way to empowerment happened, in the same way as my small story, involved admitting some truth about themselves and bringing that truth to light.

 

Some hidden thing gave them strength to admit the truth which meant that their vulnerable spot, which was the source of the jibes and ridicule, became the thing that was integrated into their sense of self, and so became a place of power, not a place of shame.

 

I started to think about how this works for me because I read this account of how a gay person who was suffering terrible bullying at school did the same, when he saw Lady Gaga. Here is his story

 

Consequently, Lady Gaga turned my world upside down. I suffered from chronic anxiety, linked to years of bullying. I was offensively effeminate and school was an ordeal spent avoiding older boys who spat “faggot” at me in the corridors. After Gaga exploded, I fashioned my own diamond-encrusted glasses and dyed my hair green – the slurs in the corridors lost their power when, like Gaga, I was deliberately provoking the attention. “What a freak,” my peers would scream at pictures of Gaga’s meat dress. I burned with defiance to hear them deride her – if she was a freak, this person I loved, then I didn’t want to be normal any more. The word “faggot” resounding in the corridor no longer marked me out as lesser, but placed me on a pedestal alongside my heroine, another freak – who happened to be No 1 in 20 countries. Her otherness made my own otherness feel more aspirational than painful. In a world of utter darkness, her presence was my only light, a wordless pathway to myself before I even knew what the word queer meant.

 

In the Eucharist we celebrate Christ’s resurrection. He too was a ‘freak’ excluded by everyone to the point of sending him to a shameful death on the cross: naked and in absolute agony, mocked by his enemies and deserted by his friends.

 

The resurrection is the metaphor we use for the same kind of power that the Nerds, Methodists and Christians found in following a crucified Lord, who set them free by his truth. My own little story is one way that the same thing happens in daily life, over and over as I am faithful to Jesus’ truth too.

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The Symbolism of a Deep, Spirit filled and Evangelical Faith.

I saw an article in the English “Church Times” where the author was calling for an end to bishops’ wearing of Mitres. The main argument for not wearing a mitre is that this practice has lost its message for those outside the church: it looks funny, and does not ‘say’ anything to the unchurched.

 

This argument goes on about everything to do with the Church, from the wearing of clergy shirts in public, to the wearing of any vestments at all (apart from a suit or jeans) in the leading of worship. It continues in the form of holding worship in factories, with little or no Christian symbolism, to making worship look like rock concerts to baptising anything that moves with little preparation in order to demonstrate our ‘inclusivity’.

 

The force of the argument is this: As an evangelical organisation, the church has to accommodate itself to everything that puts a block in the way of those who are searching, but might come.

 

The trouble is that if that is all we do, the depths of the faith: its capacity to shape our core identity, and to enable us to think ‘in a Christian way’ are made into the ‘shallows’ of the faith.

 

In fact, I have heard of a Pentecostal style church which turned every form of worship into a ‘seeker friendly’ kind of worship. After a while, those who had been there for a while said to the leadership “This is a bit wishy-washy’, cant we have something more substantial? So they kept their Sunday worship as ‘seeker friendly’ but instituted another service on Wednesdays for ‘the committed’. When a person was thought ‘ready’, they were quietly invited to the Wednesday service.

 

So despite the fact that God’s love is a love that reaches out to everyone, there is a pathway that means that before certain kinds of worship can be really appreciated, there has to be a period of instruction and discipleship to enable the participants to both play their parts fully, actively and consciously.

 

The early Church knew this. They did not admit everyone to their most sacred rites, but reserved them for those who had been fully initiated. Dietrich Bonhoeffer advocated for a return to what he called the Arcane discipline (the kind of Christian initiation that the early Church had).

 

Not every movement that widens the gap between ‘the World’ and the Church’ is the Church’s fault. Sometimes the riches of the Church, including ritual, vestments and education must be held onto in order to keep the riches of the depths of God available.

 

This is not to say that a ‘reaching out’ quality in a lot of Church activity is not necessary. Of course it is. There, mitres and much else can be dispensed with for the sake of making connections with others. But the maintaining of a difference between what is available to feed those who have been properly initiated, and those who are seekers is these days more and more necessary.

 

Here is a story that helps to explain why I think that both the bishop’s ring, and mitre are essential symbols to keep.

 

A bishop was asked to preach on ‘the role of the deacon in the Eucharist’. He began by saying “I am not going to preach on this but its opposite! My topic is “What kind of Eucharists do you have when you have Deacons?” He then went on to explain the image of priest and deacon at the altar. The priest represents ‘God’s dealings with the centre of his life. The deacon represents God’s ‘going out into fringes. At the alter priest and deacon unify centre and fringe. That is what Christ does. Deacons are needed at to Eucharist to complete the picture of Christ’s presence.

Now the mitre and ring do something similar for the bishop. The mitre looks like a flame, and represents the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church. The bishop is to be ‘Spirit filled’ and so be both focus of unity, and chief evangelist, and the one to ‘lead us into new things’. At Pentecost the Apostles were accused of being drunk while filled with the Spirit. Peter says, no we are not drunk (a-methos) but filled with the Spirit. The bishop’s ring (amethyst) reminds the bishop that on those occasions when they might be accused of being drunk they can say “No, see this stone? It says that rather than being drunk, I am a-methos, but in the Spirit!

 

The ‘tails’ on the mitre represent the Bible’s bookmarks. The bishop is to be the guardian of the apostolic faith too. No new thing can be ‘just introduced’ in the Spirit without a conversation with our ancestors in the Faith and the Scriptures.

 

So the bishops hat, the mitre tells us and them what kind of a person they are. They are Spirit filled people, who, in the Spirit might be often accused of being drunk. They are the chief evangelists of the diocese, putting the making of new Christians at the centre of the life of every congregation as their main game. They are the ones who, through their knowledge and training, can lead the conversation between making all things new, and being faithful to the Spirit of Jesus and the Apostles. What a Church we would have with bishops like that.

 

That is why we cannot do without mitres, and amethyst rings. They are not for ‘public display’ as it were, but they are essential to Church life in Christ.

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Inequality: How To Think Like A Christian

I heard on the radio the other week, a discussion about the ‘flat lining’ of wages, the growing insecurity of work life and the rising inequality in society.

 

They were discussing the various causes of this rise in inequality. One cause that is commonly spoken about is the rise of technology. It goes like this “Before the industrial revolution of which we are now a part, there were lots of low level jobs, so that people who were not able to do ‘high level’ university courses, or technical jobs, could find employment. Now, with many jobs being created in the Information Technology sector, there are lots of people ‘left behind’ who cannot find jobs.

 

The rise in inequality is put down to the change in technology.

 

But then one of the guests on the radio said that they had done some research, and found that the industries with the biggest difference between the highest and lowest paid workers were not the high tech industries.

 

What struck me however about the radio show was that no where were legislative changes mentioned.

 

I remember when there used to be a big deal made about the ‘National Wage Case’ and that the power of employees was greater than it is now, because the possibility of collective action was greater.

But then came the agitation in the 1980s from groups like the H.R. Nicholls society, and the Institute of Public Affairs and Industry (Employer) lobby groups. It resulted in legislation that made it harder to go on strike.

 

There was a shift (as we are seeing now in the Banking Royal Commission) to a company’s distribution of profits from employees, to shareholders and management.

 

This effectively broke the power of the Union Movement.

 

As well, management began paying itself much more, and government supported it by saying ‘Well if they don’t receive good pay, they will go overseas.’

 

We have accepted these arguments. But behind the changes are some hidden factors, that I think need to be brought to light.

 

Here is a story. Nestlé can bring ‘management’ staff into Switzerland quite easily. ‘ordinary’ workers must first of all prove that there is no Swiss person who can do the same job, before they are allowed to work there.

 

I assume something similar happens in Australia as well.

 

If managers can go where the remuneration is highest, why can’t workers go where the wages are higher? At the same time that the government was removing the power of the Unions, it was also saying ‘We determines who comes to our shores, and under what circumstances!’

 

The source of inequality has more to do with whom we decide should get the resources, than with any forces outside our control.

 

We talk about ‘union bullies’ and nod our heads, because in some industries there is a lot of bullying. (Think Building Industry, Waterfront, fire-fighting). But we have a much softer attitude to ‘Corporate bullies and thieves’ who take people’s money and squander it.

 

So evil, (mostly greed and lust for power) is spread across the whole of humanity.

 

Most of us favour one ‘group’ or another: blaming our ‘out group’ and overlooking the sins of our ‘in group’.

 

Yet Christians are given an identity that transcends all of our previous ‘belongings’. In baptism, we are ‘taken off’ our families and all other connections and ‘plunged’ into Christ. We are connected to Him forever. Being baptized signals a life of continual reflection on our experience, in the light of the presence of Christ among us.

 

What does that then tell us about power and inequality?

 

First is says that power belongs to God, and any exercise of power should be done in humility, and with mutual accountability.

‘Because I can’ is not a good reason for doing anything.

 

Second, we do not live in an economy, but in a society. People are not means to an end for anything, but ends in themselves. As such everyone, no matter who, deserves enough money to keep body and soul together and to put a roof over their heads.

 

Moreover, for Christians, everyone’s work or contribution to the whole is a result not of what they want, or for the sake of amassing money, but as a result of listening to how their relationship with God flows into the World. This is called a ‘vocation’. Every Christian has a vocation, and ought to be given the time, space and income to fulfil it. There are no ‘jobs’ or ‘volunteers’ in the Church!

 

In the Church there are vocations and ministries. Being a Christian gives us an alternative perspective on life, and helps us not to be blown about by every change in society. Lucky us.

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What Does It Take To Be A Parish Priest Today?

In retirement I have been thinking about what it takes to be a parish priest. Over the years my picture has changed. As a young person, there were a number of clergy who were helpful to me, and it was the 60s and 70s where the human potential movement was big. I thought that being a parish priest was about being a counsellor. And that was where my energies went.

 

Doing a Theology degree of course introduced me to Biblical studies, and so being a theologian became part of my ‘kit bag’ of skills for parish priesting.

 

In the 1880s we were exposed to the idea of management and parishes. The Alban Institute became a great source of research and information about how to develop parish life.

 

But the big shift for me came when in the 1990s The General board of Religious Education ran a series of conferences on Christian Initiation. The Roman Catholic Church had, as a result of Vatican 11, re-introduced the ancient Catechumenate as its chief means of Christian initiation, calling it the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.

 

I was sold. I had come from an evangelical background, and had rejected some of its forms, but now could see that the making of Christians: both new Christians, and better Christians of those we already had. Through the Catechumenate, evangelism was integrated with Church, and took people’s questions seriously.

 

Now here is the rub. There was a committee set up to further this process in the diocese where I worked. Most of the time I was in conflict with this committee because meetings often consisted of accounts of what they could not do. Meanwhile, the commitment and energy of evangelical Christians meant that they were slowly taking over the diocese, while we Anglicans of a Catholic persuasion were slowly dying.

 

I recount all this because The Rev’d. Peter Corney (former vicar of St. Hilary’s Kew) has given a speech in which he outlines the deficiencies of Catholic Style Anglicanism.

He lists an over emphasis on the idea of ‘presence’ and pastoral ministry, an over emphasis on the Eucharist as the main form of Sunday worship, and a reductionist liberalism at the heart of its theology as some of the reasons for Anglo Catholicism’s ‘running out of steam.’

 

I do not agree with all that he said, but I do think that Catholic Anglicanism has lost its way. I was told that in the 19th Century there were no evangelicals who would go to the East End of London. Most were ‘called’ to middle class parishes. It was their commitment to the poor, to beauty amongst squalor that made a difference.

 

In our times, I think that a parish priest needs to be able to do more than ‘put on Church’. For my money, the Eucharist is the intense, symbolic form of life lived in the world. We need it because we need to learn how to be broken open by God’s presence, how to be shaped by God’s word, and how to enjoy the new ‘raised up’ life of the Reign of God’s wedding feast!. But this is not a description of Church, but of life itself. This is the pattern of Jesus’ own death, entombment and resurrection. That is why Eucharist is the central symbol of Christian life-in-the-world. I do not think that other forms of worship actually deliver such a powerful way of participating in the life of Christ.

 

But this way is only the repeatable part of our entry into Christ. Baptism is the primary Sacrament that delivers us into this Christlike way of being. We need to ask ‘Where are candidates for baptism coming from? How are they being formed? What kind of credible witness to the life of Christ (apart from red wine and niceness) do we offer, which will invite people to sit up and take notice as they did when the original Anglo Catholics went into the East End of London?

 

Now I think that knowing how to be a credible witness, knowing how to form adult candidates for baptism, and knowing how to live Baptismally/Eucharistically are the essential elements for knowing how to be a parish priest. I think Peter Corney is wrong at a number of levels, but he is right in saying that Anglo Catholics have lost their mojo.

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Food Preferences As Symbolic of Psychological Divisions: A Christian Take

There was a by-election for the federal seat of Batman last weekend. During the campaign, commentators mentioned the difference between the north of the electorate, which is more traditional Labor territory, and the south of the electorate, which is becoming more ‘green’. I laughed out loud when I heard that this divide was called ‘The Great Wall of Quinoa”* I immediately thought of Switzerland where the difference between French Speaking Swiss and German Speaking Swiss is known as the “Rösti Graben” (Rösti is a kind of grated potato pizza, so the name means ‘Rösti ditch!’). My mind went to all those places where food becomes the issue over which different groups divide, or by which different groups identify themselves.

 

When we were young, a Canadian family visited our Church. We had a parish dinner at our house, where they cooked. They made Pizza and put some very stinky cheese on top. All of the kids went around saying ‘Poooo! That cheese smells like vomit!” Our parents were mortified.

 

But the same was true over the influx of people into the UK from the Indian sub-continent. I remember the complaints on the television about the smell of the curries and how it permeated their houses! I began to wonder about how food becomes the focus of such divisions. Here is my take on it.

 

While reading some anthropology, I have learned to be sensitive to the idea that the boundary of our bodies is a very significant one. We carefully guard what we ‘admit’ to our ‘internal self.’ Physically, we guard against becoming sick by keeping a close watch over what ‘gets in’. But the power of the food metaphor is that its meaning is transferred from the physical meaning one to the psychological meaning. In rejecting some one else’s food choices, we are not only saying ‘I do not know if your food will make me sick’, but also ‘I don’t know if you will make me sick! (in my inner life.)’

 

There is the key. Food becomes the metaphor for the question of ‘to admit or not to admit another’.

 

In the electorate of Batman, those in the north are saying “You ‘greenies’ in the south with your new fangled food choices! We are working class. We are meat and three veg. people. We are mistrustful of you! “

 

This was, of course, one of the first issues that the Church had to face, and it has become a characteristic of Christians ever since. The Gentiles were thought of as being ‘unclean’ in such a way as even to prevent Jews from eating with them or eating their food which, of course, was non-kosher’.

 

Paul’s theology drove a chariot straight through all this, by saying ‘There is no longer the category of Jew and Gentile! The division now lies between those who are ‘in Christ’ and those who are not. Everyone who is ‘in Christ’ belongs to the New Creation. This new community was naturally symbolised by the fact that Jews and Gentiles then ate the same food together. This is just more radical than we can really imagine, but there it is!

 

In the Church today we say ‘We are the body of Christ, for we all share in the one bread.’ The members of the Church are not individuals, who need to guard against one another, but members of the same body. The food is distributed among all the ‘organs’ and the blood flows from one part to the other without any barriers. In the church we have no ‘Rösti Graben’ or ‘Great wall of Quinoa’!

 

Were it so! Such unity requires more being and acting together than many congregations will accept, so that we do not become one body, but an aggregation of individuals. We give expression to this reality, again with food, by the frequency with which individual cups are used in Church, or the frequency with which people will ‘dip’ their bread into the chalice, rather than run the risk of sharing something dangerous with another member of the same body. Such loss of intimacy is also expressed when, on Maundy Thursday ‘hand washing’ replaces ‘foot washing’ in some places.

 

I think that the symbol of one cup, one body, touching another’s feet, is a powerful antidote to the fear of ‘the other’ that is growing in the world these days.

*For those not ‘in the know’ Quinoa is a grain that is becoming very popular among the young and ‘hip’.

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