Eucharist [Pt. 3]

In my last two essays, I’ve shared thoughts on what I consider some of the finer details of our modern practices of Eucharist.

To begin, in part one, I hope I showed what I consider to be the great rhythm we’re taught through our table practice. The body broken and the blood poured out. This is what we commemorate, while we simultaneously celebrate phase two, where the body is healed and the blood poured in. The rhythm at the heart of Eucharist seems to be a cosmic inhale/exhale, body broken/body raised, blood drained/blood filled, battery depleted/recharged. We take this meal to remind us that it’s okay to be caught in either side of the cycle. We share this meal with each other to knit us together and be reminded that we’re never alone.

In part two, I took on a cursory argument for open table theology. I hoped to show what I believe to be a better reading of Paul’s warning to the Corinthian church. That we as the body should be as inviting and welcoming as possible to those “on the outside” and break down the walls and dividing lines that tempt us to exclude and divide. The holy Eucharist binds us together in mystical and metaphorical ways and I for one wouldn’t dare to exclude anyone from the love of God, as demonstrated in the gift of table fellowship. The universal Christ invites us to a universal table. It is a sacrament lovingly designed to equalize all. Power only inspires bigger and better next to the smaller and poorer, while the upside-down power of the Kingdom equalizes all around the place of nourishment, sharing, and vulnerability. It’s a gift, so please don’t be stingy with it.

In this third and final essay of this series, I’d like to go further to suggest that it all comes from a sadly poisoned theology of the body, tracing it’s deepest roots to an emphasis of Genesis 3, forgetting that Genesis 1 and 2 come first.

In the first 2 chapters of the Hebrew Scriptures, we’re given a glimpse in on a divine dance or a cosmic symphony. The Triune God, who in and among Itself is Relationship in it’s truest form, begins calling out of nothing that which is the universe we know. This Divine Spirit takes utter delight in each “day” of Creation, transfixed and in love with how the earth responds to the Voice. I like to imagine a child being pushed by her mother on a swing, each time reaching the peak before swinging back toward her mother’s arms, giggling with delight and begging “higher! higher!”. The days of Genesis 1 were each push of the swing and God is and is in the child, the mother, and the swing all at once. The purest goodness and delight.

And the final push came when Mother God offered dirt and dust formed in Her own holy image. Adam, mankind, humankind, infused with warm, dynamic, holy breath. Out of this man, God realized that the one not good thing that required righting was that man needed a partner, for without relationship, we are incomplete. Woman, like the cherry on top of it all: Eve. Divine image sealed with a kiss and a human body for the rest of history and eternity. This original goodness, original blessing, original righteousness, holiness, sacredness is jammed packed into Genesis 1 and 2 in so many ways, I can’t imagine tiring of these couple short chapters. This is where the whole story begins. So why don’t we remind ourselves of it more often? Instead, we build up our neural pathways to believe that Genesis 3, the wicked Fall, is the beginning of our story.

To have a fully robust understanding and appreciation for Eucharist, I believe today that we need a fully robust theology of the body rooted in Genesis 1 and 2, where the story really begins. Our bodies are good, infused with original blessing, coursing with the very breath of the Divine I AM. A mix of bone, soul, dust, spirit. A meat bag full of blood, tissue, sweat, and holes that allow food to flow from entrance to exit. Our skin sheds and is replaced. Our muscles tear and rebuild. From our marrow, our bones rebuild themselves. Our eyes blink to keep moist. Our chests rise and fall with our lungs. Our stomachs yearn for food and water many times a day. We digest and poop. We drink and pee. Our hearts beat blood and oxygen to the brain, feet, and toes, with an exquisite distribution infrastructure plan that boasts of no cell being more than 2 cells away from a capillary.  Every bit of this awkwardly warm flesh is sustained by a rhythm: heart, lungs, eyes, skin, hunger, sex, sleep. The thing that knits that together, holds your molecules together to stay cells, that’s grace, that’s love, that’s Christ spirit. The Christ that is in you is in and through all, and this spirit teaches us the rhythms of life and death. Modeled in the birth of Jesus, in a body, all the way to his death, in a body, there is again a rhythm that under-girds it all.

One of the greatest beauties of Christianity, that I feel in my body, mind, and heart, is that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. The Creator enters the creation. The author writes himself into the story. The universal, cosmic Christ entered the particular body of Jesus of Nazareth. He was not beamed down to Earth through the Bifröst like Thor, no, He came into the world in a bloody, loud, human way. God saw that it was good and that it was beautiful enough to enter himself as a baby, born to a terrified, homeless, ostracized teenage girl. Christ Jesus, God the All-Vulnerable at the mercy of a mother who had probably barely lived past a decade herself. The Lord incarnate, the Christ in a meat body, painfully and beautifully delivered to a 7th grade age girl, to a world commiserating with her birth pain. This world that was ready and pleading for a cosmic reminder that the body was created to be good and is good.

Each new dwelling place for soul, that is, the human body, begins inside another. The mother/child relationship is itself a wonderful metaphor for the fact that we were only ever created inside the cosmic womb of God’s love. Something bigger than bigness itself had enough love and joy and grace to share that it had to start it off with a Big Bang, with holy Relationship being the ultimate plan for such a vigorously expanding universe. God created a universe that could love it back, just as a mother gestates a child that can love her back. Can you see this holy promise of original blessing baked into it all? Can you see that the body may be good from the start?

It evens means something mystical to me that this Word made flesh was unmade and remade flesh for us. To see that God is willing to enter our vulnerability and suffering, in solidarity, identifying with our pains and death, letting Jesus’ body be ripped to ribbons, nailed to the world’s greatest torture weapon, and left to die. All-vulnerable at death. All-suffering on the cross. All dead on Friday night. All dead, all absent on Saturday. All missing Sunday Easter morning. All human, yet more after being buried. That the Christ would even enter death for us, carrying the flame of original blessing and goodness through death, just to show us that the body is so good, in fact, that it is part of the plan that we keep it on the other side of death. All human, All Christ, All body, All spirit.

If the bread represents a holy body, given and taken freely, I firmly believe that Jesus is also making a statement on the whole of humanity. We have a remaining sacrament through the life of Jesus that chooses to affirm the goodness and beauty of the human body as his temple. We’re not originally born of hideous spiritual deformity, destined to a hell upon our first cries outside the womb. We’re crafted of an Image, of a holy Pattern, the Imago Dei that births us forward full of joys, loves, hopes. Fundamentally, the Eucharist meal reminds me that my body is a good thing, not a tool of the devil and his temptations, or a thing to be beaten into flagellating obedience. Christ as Jesus took up the form of a human body as a baby on Christmas and laid that body down for a time on Good Friday. Affirming the image of the Divine within us was his first holy act on earth, even before he could utter a word. This is a radically new way to be human. I believe Christ is showing us a deep and eternal truth: that every human being is holy ground. Holy ground to be contended with through a high regard for their dignity, their lovability, and their sanctity. We know there is something different in us as humans, we see a soul where we see none throughout the rest of our animal kingdoms. In her work “Aurora Leigh”, the mystic poet Elizabeth Barret Browning says,

Earth is crammed with heaven and every common bush is afire with God, but only he who sees takes off his shoes, the rest sit around the bush and pluck it’s blackberries for a pie.

May it be that we learn to have eyes like these. Eyes that see every common bush, every human being, afire with God. A work of great beauty and dignity worthy of respect and love first. Let communion be a reminder of this: that you are loved, not in spite of your body, but because your body and it’s Image of the holy Divine.

“This is the table, not of the church, but of the Lord. It is to be made ready for those who love God and who want to love God more.

So, come, you who have much faith and you who have little, you who have been here often and you who have not been for a long time, you who have tried to follow and you who have failed.

Come, because it is not I who invites you: it is the Lord, and it is God’s will that you who want God should meet God here.”

Minimal

Have you ever had a realization, a lesson learned, a question answered? Those sticky ones that seem to follow you once they’re here with you? Like once you see, you can’t unsee; once you’ve heard, you can’t unhear. I’ve had two of these moments, as such. One of them, I want to illuminate: minimalism.

When we first got married, Dixie and I found ourselves packed tight into our first small apartment. The bedroom was lined with two dressers and three book cases crammed with things, making navigating the queen sized bed a chore in and of itself. Closets were stuffed with clothes dating back to when I was seven years old, as if I hoped to one day fit in them one day again. Hanging bars were completely full of jackets, pants, old choir tuxedos, and dresses. Kitchen cabinets and drawers overflowed with multiple sets of dishes and utensils. The dining table was often stacked with mail, keys, bags, paper “to file away”. The living room housed a large six person sectional, allowing for an ottoman and a TV stand, which itself was covered in consoles, remotes, and DVD cases. We also kept a book case out for more books that didn’t fit in the bedroom and a rack showing off an eclectic CD collection I had acquired over my many high school tastes and phases of music. Stacked in the corner, my multiple cases full of drum equipment towered next to an upright piano Dixie and picked up for free one day. This was the life we found when we combined our belongings under the same roof. And I didn’t even mention the boxes upon boxes of miscellaneous tools, childhood toys, and hobby materials that were packed away in our garage. We had a single car garage to our advantage and we had packed it with enough things, all accounted for, made a stack and pile bigger than a large suburban. We had stuff. Or maybe the stuff had us?

Then, I got a job that allows me some freedom to listen to podcasts and music at my desk. I put a short Facebook status up asking any and all friends for podcast recommendations for me to check out, and some saint linked me to theminimalists.com. These two guys, who started their podcast and blog out of Missoula, Montana, started to help us change our lives. The idea appealed to me immediately and I took my enthusiasm home and pitched the idea to Dixie with about as much grace and tact as a charging rhinoceros. I might have even been foaming at the mouth, telling Dixie about how I want to go through our stuff and potentially purge 75% of our collective possessions. Unsurprisingly, this idea was not received well. (Understatement of the year). So I took another angle.

As I have mentioned, at the time, we had stacks of plates, bowls, tupperware, forks, spoons, pans, mugs, cups, water bottles, travel mugs, utensils, and any other kitchen tool you can probably think of. As you may know as well, this many dishes tend to stack in the sink pretty quickly. I noticed at one point that of my available free time in the evenings, I could spend anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours every night just doing that day’s dishes, and I was sick of it. I proposed that we whittle down these piles down to a simple set of two of everything. We wouldn’t need to get rid of the rest yet, but as a trial, just pack the excess away and see how we fared for a week or two. And according to plan, at the end of a week, I was spending maybe only 10 minutes putting away food after a meal and doing all the dishes. This was the first taste of freedom from minimalism that we both truly enjoyed.

After that the decisions came easier. We systematically went through each room, treating it almost as a game, sorting our piles of dust collecting, unused items into donate, sell, recycle, and trash piles. Many trips to Goodwill, some sales on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, a few garage sales, and a trip to the dump later, we had pared our lives down by about 60%, and everything that remained truly meant something to us.

The story could of course be longer, more embellished, with plenty of details, but that wouldn’t be very minimal of me would it? As long as the story is allowed to rest here, I do have some thoughts on minimalism that may help you “see and not unsee” the value it could add to your life as well.


  • Minimalism is not about austerity, it’s about intentionality. I still have a book case full of books that I love to read, lend, and reread. We have a collection of records to spin on our record player in our living room. At this point, we do have more than 2 plates. We never wanted to be the kind of people who live out of a backpack in a 100 sq ft apartment. The intent for our home is for the things we own to serve a purpose, bring utility, add value, and tell a story. It’s about meaningful materials, purposeful possession.
  • Your stuff pays rent. If you only ever collect more items that you can’t part with, then you may fill your house to the brim, before you cave and buy a bigger house to put all your stuff in. In a way, the stuff you own forces you to pay more rent or get a bigger mortgage to keep it all.
  • Less stuff, less cleaning. As the dishes were for me, it may be the laundry for you. If you’re sick of spending so much of your waking life cleaning the stuff you own, it may be time for you to permanently wipe it out of your home.
  • A place for everything. Does that junk drawer in the kitchen actually seem to haunt you sometimes? Like the Room of Requirement in Harry Potter, things wanting to get lost find their way to that drawer? Or maybe it’s a whole room dedicated to miscellany and misfits? Hobbits call this the “Mathom room.” When you sort through the unnecessary clutter, these things tend to find a home. And if they don’t, then they really don’t belong anywhere do they?
  • New starts. The hardest area for us to work through were our overflowing clothes closets. Many articles carried a certain degree of sentimentality that were difficult to part with. Maybe they represented a happier era in my childhood, or me before the weight gain. I discovered though, after getting my wardrobe down to a measly 33 pieces, that I am actually more satisfied knowing that every single article that I could wear gives me confidence.
  • Passion. Maybe a corny word in the era of self help “gurus”, but honestly, minimalism frees much time and energy to do things you’re passionate about. Like me, finally starting a blog.
  • Relationships. More than just gained time, minimalism sheds the excess things that often take up mental and emotional energy for the relationships that matter most. My marriage is maximally more rich for living as a material minimalist. This is what really matters.

There’s plenty more to be said, more for me to say in one essay, so as the minimalists say at the close of each of their podcasts:

“love people and use things, because the opposite never works.”