Breaking More Than Bread

Eucharistic-Bread

Several years ago I remember hearing about someone switching churches for a reason that I could not connect to: a man that switched from being Baptist to Episcopalian in part because he found the liturgy to be so beautiful.  Liturgy?  Really?  You mean like formal presentation of that bread and wine with those fancy clothes?

That was my cultural bias in belittling it because I prided myself on my informal formation as a Christian. My parents did not identify themselves as Christian and I became a Christian without their guidance when I was 10 and became a church goer at 14.  I did not take into my life a habit to pray before meals and cussing was not a problem for me.  In fact, I rarely made it a point to dress nice for church because God knows my heart.  There was even a season of my life when I avoided “dry, organized church” of any kind choosing to be in a house church that was off the rails and not reverent to traditions of Christianity that had unity and history to it.  So on that liturgy anecdote “Really?” seemed to make sense.

But years later, my meandering journey in following Christ took me unexpectedly into the Catholic Church.  To stay.  I actually like it.  Another interesting point is that I wanted a Christianity to experience that was consistent with a matter of fact declaration on fresh, pristine form on how, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).  In this setting I have found this verse to be fleshed out in the most fulness.

But this is not just a matter of just a ceremony for ceremony’s sake.  This is the full realization of what is to take the message of John 3:16, thank God for His sacrifice of His Son and infuse it relationally into ones soul and body.  In the Old Testament they had a bread sacrifice to God called the todah.  In the Greek translation from Hebrew they used the word eucharesteo.  This is where we get Eucharist where Jesus is present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Did I still accept Jesus at 10 with a simple prayer? Yes.  But with The Eucharist it is blown into 3D and it draws me to a unified walk with Church in light of salvation history.

Late invention?  The accounts of having the Eucharist in the Early Church Fathers writings are numerous.  But one can see something profound with Jesus on the day of the resurrection.  Two disciples of Jesus come upon him on the road to Emmaus but do not recognize him right away.  He takes the fog away eventually like he does for anyone who seeks him honestly.

And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:30-35).

Safe to assume that they consumed the bread?  Almost.  Once Jesus gave thanks and consecrated, his presence is extended in the bread.  They knew him in the breaking of the bread.

Klasis is the Greek word for the actual breaking of bread.  In a solemn way this happens in a holy, fellowship time.  But there is another breaking of the bread can then be done in smaller settings that are not as formal.  There is room to build relationally with one another that does not take away from Jesus.

“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke (klasis) bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46).  This is beautiful, compliments the pillar of above about fellowship and is a sanctified time because of the primary breaking of the bread in the sacrifice reflecting The Sacrifice on the cross.  It is in the institution of the Eucharist that Christ gives us the source and summit of our faith as we walk in God and together.

This is where Jesus expressed something that was to have meaning but must be apprehended (like getting the “jist” of something) and comprehending.

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me (John 6: 54-57).

Here, all of the crowd save the 12 disciples walk away.  The twelve maybe apprehend and others will not soften to such an offensive mystery.  But the two men on the road to Emmasaus?  Many other Christians through the ages such as Catholic, Orthodox and Coptic?  Different story.  But now I can tell you it is my story as well.

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A Peace of Mind And Heart

Forgiveness

It is an easy thing to say that you like the people one deals with on a daily basis. And if one says that they are spiritual then they can even say that they think of their Higher Power highly.

But the real person is the sum of a lot more than the best thoughts and best actions.  To present those things when things are going well and our cracks are not exposed in the light of stress.  Such stress can be when we are wronged by someone.  We had expectations possibly to be treated with dignity and respect that were proven to high or maybe some other kind that was just as off.  Either way, the light of being a loving person toward both God and fellow human beings has to start in the heart.

I remember when I was a kid hearing the idea of what we would feel like if we had a TV screen on our heads wherever we went that showed everything bad we have done.  My friends and I groaned about how lame that would be.  Then the speaker cut deeper and asked how it would feel if that screen showed everything we seriously considered doing.  The groan was much deeper.

When confronted by reading the words below of Jesus, there is chance to renew an examination of our conscience about life not being fair and how to rise above “fair” and choose love.

You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.” But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you,  leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny (Matthew 5:21-26).

There is a famous saying from Father Michael Scanlon, “God opposes the proud [the Bible goes on to say ‘but embraces the humble’], especially when they are right.”  The point is that we get in turmoil over the temporary things when God is more invested into us walking in a higher way of thinking.  It is supposed to be about trusting Him to sort out the temporal things including how wrong the other person is.

To be angry with a person as an end in itself is not like righteous anger.  Jesus had righteous anger because it was clear by natural law and God’s divine law how they should live as teachers of the law and they were hypocrites instead.  Such righteous anger carried with it sincere grief over their sin and desire for their repentance to the their best selves per God’ creation.  Anger as an end in itself is only personal on what bad you ascribe to the person and not on their well being.   To rise above person anger and be open, if appropriate, to righteous anger involves a paradigm shift through prayer and meditation about how one has come to wrongful presuppositions about the life and dignity of their personhood and especially of their greatest enemy.

Saying they are a fool (raca means “empty head”) is denying that they are created in God’s image, whether man or woman, and ascribes a curse to them to not make better decisions.  After all, it takes a full head of the right things to make good decisions.  We must consider  how,   “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (Proverbs 18:21).  What would our lives look like if we chose to bless?  The key verb is to choose and does not happen by accident.  In different verses int the Bible the call to bless your enemies is a commandment precisely because it is hard.  But what stops us?  We live in a blame culture driven by knowing how to curse people fluently and with a pseudo-intellectual labeling based on what society says are the groups people belong to.

           So when you are offering your gift at the altar…

The word “when” assumes for the one who hears that they make coming to the altar a regular thing for worship. But to be in a bad state of contention with someone else hindering access to God should not effect the reader of the New Testament, right?  After all, there is no longer an altar to deal with so if if someone else has a problem with you, you have a personal relationship with your Higher Power and can comfort yourself in being a spiritual person with that logic.

Before you have your sigh of relieve, keep in mind that this was not the impression of the early church fathers about the importance of being pure in your daily living before you can commune properly with God.

“On the Lord’s own day, assemble in common to break bread and offer thanks; but first confess your sins, so that your sacrifice may be pure.  However, no one quarreling with his brother may join your meetings until they are reconciled; your sacrifice must not be defiled.  For here we have the saying of the Lord: ‘In every place and time offer me a pure sacrifice; for I am a mighty King, says the Lord; and my name spreads terror among the nations [cf. Mal 1:11]”.   

AD 70 The Didache.  

So before we congratulate ourselves highly, let’s ask ourselves how much of peace and love is in our lives.  And before those of us who pride ourselves for choosing the “Christian team” sit back in our Lazy Boy and procrastinate reconciliation with those we are in strife with, keep in mind that strife is an enemy of the cross of Christ.  On the other hand forgiveness and reconciliation is central to connecting to the Higher Power and everyone else.  What is stopping us?