Week 50a: An Invitation, 15 December 2008

My friend Pat works in an institution back east as artist, visionary, chaplain. As I write this, I realize I don’t know what her actual job title is. It doesn’t matter. You’ll get a good sense of it and her in the following paragraphs. It’s been my great privilege and joy to have known Pat for over a decade. We’ve never met in person . . . such is the internet so magical at bringing people together, but not physically.

Pat invited us to one of their services. (It’s one of the very few we’ve been invited to attend this year — I don’t know what that says about us, or the project, or our friends, or the general state of the church . . . I’ll have to noodle on it).

She knew, of course, that we’re not likely to make it back east to be there in person, so she “took” us “to” it. Here’s the invitation:

I invite you to come to our church.
I believe it would be a mite different
but you’re welcome to be different, too.

We begin whenever everyone gets there.
Yes, there is a set time but you never know if a bus will breakdown,
there is a fire drill, or the sound system goes cafluey.

When we do begin, we begin with sign.
It is a sign for Advent, really.
We open our arms and gesture, “Come, Creator God…be here with us.”

There are very few words in our worship.
Most people can’t talk.
But, we do have music and the good news is told through music.

There is an Offertory but no money is collected.
Instead, everyone offers a thumbprint put to paper.
They give themselves as they have no money.

Then we have a procession.
This is really Prayers of the Faithful.
Everyone, those who can walk,
those in wheelchairs,
those with walkers carry the names
of people who have asked for prayers,
those who have not,
and our country, our world, our cosmos.
We pray for one another when we finally bless each other
and say good-bye till the next time.

She added this, in the original note to a group of women that is our original point of meeting. I include it here, in case you, dear reader, have an idea I can pass on to her (or she can read here).

I’m trying to figure out how those who understand about Eucharist
can actually participate when they are not able to eat regular food.
This has bothered me since I began this ministry.
There are so many who “get it”
but are fed internally and cannot even drink water.
Everything is with a tube.

Maybe you have an idea how best to do this.
There’s got to be a way.

Would Jesus invite all to the table
and then skew it so that 10% of all the people who know him
can’t be part of the wedding feast?

I suspect he wouldn’t.

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4 Responses to Week 50a: An Invitation, 15 December 2008

  1. zachary says:

    hello Pat,

    I am Jen’s friend Teresa. Michael’s clown description put me in mind of one of my favorite film representations of Jesus and his disciples. In the movie, “Godspell” Jesus initiates his followers with face paint, each design unique to that individual. At the last supper, he tenderly wipes each face clean before they partake of the bread and wine. Not particularly helpful to your dilemma, but I was reminded.


  2. Pat says:

    Michael and Bitterman,

    Thank you for your responses. You know, it is in dialogue that answers are found. And, I might add that the answers for one time are not necessarily answers for all time.

    Bitterman, I wish you could be part of our Eucharist. You see, I bake the bread and sometimes it is still hot. That in itself is a great sign, especially if in breaking the bread you can sense the steam rising, or at least there is the aroma. You know something else is going on.

    Michael, I am intrigued and delighted with what you did in clown ministry. I want to hear more about that part of your life. I think there might be some kind of answer for me in the physical signs you used.

    I just received the book Eucharist with a small “e.” and I am excited about reading it. I think it deals with this issue. What is Eucharist anyway? Do we really know? We have formulas and doctrines and rubrics. The important part is somewhere in community and thanksgiving? I do not pretend to have answers. Yes, I went to Divinity School and got A’s but in the trenches, things are much different.

    Happy Incarnation!


  3. Michael says:

    As I read Pat’s description, and Bitterman’s musings got me thinking. Many years ago I was involved in a liturgical clown ministry. In my training, liturgical clowns are silent, and must express themselves with facial expressions and actions. Also, liturgical clowns do not eat or drink while in white-face. (I’ll note that liturgical clowns are not mimes — we have costumes and props and no silly berets.)

    From time to time we would do a clown communion. In such moments there was usually a clown who had played a Christ figure. As other clowns were reconciled to the Christ figure, he (or she) would take tube of red lipstick and place a dot on their cheek, symbolizing the blood of Christ. As the clowns were communicated, they would in turn communicate the congregation, sharing the joy of redemption and grace through Jesus Christ. Sometimes a clown communion was combined with a conventional Eucharist, sometimes it was not.

    I agree with Bitterman, the point of the Eucharist is not ingestion, it is mystical communion with God through our Risen Savior. I believe experiencing that physically in some way is important and valuable, but I don’t think it has to be through food. Clown communions were some of the most spiritually powerful Eucharist’s I can recall.

  4. bitterman says:

    Now that is an interesting question. It begs some discussion of the theology of the Eucharist, I suppose, but if one believes simply that by bringing the body and blood of Christ into our own bodies, we are re-made into his image, it does not necessarily follow that digestion is an important part of the equation. Perhaps in the Eastern Orthodox way of mingling the body and the blood, a single drop of the mingled host could be placed on the lips of the infirm. Ingestion and digestion are not, it seems to me, the most important parts of the process, but the coming in faith that the Spirit of Christ will indwell us by these means.

    Besides, I have a much easier time believing that the tasteless piece of cardboard known as a “wafer” that I am served at the Lord’s table is the body of Christ than I have believing that it is bread. Ba-dum-dum.

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