Thursday, August 16, 2007

Theology on Tap: Eucharist and Emerging

I attended a fascinating monthly event in Tulsa on Tuesday called Theology on Tap. Thanks to the Emergent Tulsa Cohort website (see my links) for the heads-up. Bigger crowd than I expected (filled the top floor of McNellie's). Wonderful Roman Catholic young adult gathering held at one of our premier Irish pubs. Priest giving apologetics and history of the Eucharist from a RC perspective. Good to see evangelicals in the Protestant movement finding ways to promote the Catholic-Evangelical and Emergent Dialogue going on nationally. and vice-versa. In the world of our youth and young adults engagement, dialogue, plurality is the given air they breathe--they may want tradition, practice and praxis, but not at the expense of respect especially ecumenically. The same emergent evangelical group invited new universalist Christian the Rev. Carlton Pearson the month before--I missed that one out of town. Universalists and Catholics would have been the theological lepers not too long ago (and of course still are in many many quarters) so kudos to the group in Tulsa going where Jesus would have gone. (Lepers not in the sense that they need to be healed, mind you :), but as shorthand to "hands-off.")

It was just great to be with young adults (I was one of the oldest there at 53) drinking Sam Adams' Summer Ale and listening to Eucharist talk. Great questions that came up later to the priest from the emergent Protestants about REAL PRESENCE that showed the old divides are more mischaracterizations--conversation covered how the real presence of Christ is more than the Second Person of the Trinity embodied anew, not talking cannibalism, since a spiritual power is seen as part of that embodied Self, not just Jesus resuscitated in some wafer-way. The priest traced Eucharist back to Jewish Memorial Services for the dead, a way the past is made present. Always good to place the "Lord's supper" in a Jewish context though I prefer the historical work of Tulsan and Phillips Theological Seminary professor Dennis Smith in his book "From Symposium to Eucharist: The Banquet in the Early Christian World."

Anyway, it also showed for me why eucharist/communion is so important for my understanding of Christian community in a different way and why though the church missional plant here in Turley has had weekly communion off and on, it is becoming more on than off again, though still what would be called very low-church (including grape juice). For me it has more to do with Jesus' welcome table while he was alive than it does the "blood sacrifice" of his death to be memorialized; but then the power of the cross is in what led to it in the years of his life as well as in those hours on it, and it is in, as the priest and the convesation did allude to, the Risen Christ and the Spirit beyond the cross and tomb, in the way it gives us a glimpse of the Messianic Banquet or of God's kin-dom. This is why my eucharistic theology is that it doesn't have to be officiated over by a member of the clergy; why the words that are said as part of it are not as important as the spirit of inclusion that it re-enacts, so that no one, no one, is barred from the table, especially not for their political or religious ideas or even sinful behavior. That Christ's Real (but not only) Presence is in fact in such community-forming practice as the eucharist; but if Eucharist leads to exclusive and community-breaking power in the world than it is not Real but False Presence and re-presentation of Christ. I suppose my theology of the eucharist is based on a difference in how I see Christ was present, was incarnated, in and through Jesus.

One of the debts I owe the Roman Catholic Church, among many, is its focus through the centuries on the eucharist itself as part of what marks the Christian community. The eucharist in today's emergent organic church is one place where we can see "ancient/future" revealed. I will try to remember to post in the comments section later the "usual" liturgy for communion used here, though it varies with the occasion. End.