Uncommon

I’ve done more flying in the last six months than at any other point in my life. I’m by no means a seasoned air traveler or anything, but it’s just so happened that I’ve made flights to London, South Africa, Mexico, Cuba, Seattle, and Dallas all in the last few months. I don’t think I would enjoy it very much if I had a job where I had to fly out every week, but I have made this observation: I’m still very much amazed at the wonder of flight. There’s always this moment just before take-off that I’m reminded of the miracle that we’re privileged to experience. Our land-dwelling ancestors dreamed of what it would be like to mount up on eagles’ wings and soar into the clouds over mountains and rivers…and most of the time, we just kind of yawn and sleep our way through what has become a common sort of experience for many of us. The take-off is a really prayerful moment for me. I catch myself praying for the hand of God to come under our wings and carry us safely to our destination, lest we get so caught up in the glory of human “progress” that we fail to recognize the One who is really at work in all our machinations and technological advances. I don’t know; I guess I’ve read the Tower of Babel narrative one too many times to view it as anything less than a cautionary tale regarding human pride.

That probably sounds like I’m being a bit “holier-than-thou”…or at least holier than the godless pagans who read copies of WIRED magazine during take-off. What I’m trying to say is this: there is a real danger, I believe, in the potential for pride to desensitize us to the Holy. This is similar to a train of thought that we tease out every Sunday in my religious heritage. In churches of Christ, we observe the Lord’s Supper every week. This is one of the things I love about my heritage. Not only do we see a biblical precedent here that we try to emulate, we’re also committed to remember “matters of first importance”(1 Cor. 15) with regard to our faith. I’ve probably heard about 1000 “Lord’s Supper talks” in the last 20 years and each one is a call to remember what God has done on our behalf. Memory, being the squirrelly little thing that it is, has a way of slipping from us if we’re not careful. Our communal act of remembrance — per the Lord’s instruction — becomes a weekly safeguard against spiritual amnesia. By remembering, and by living in light of this remembrance, we are collectively shaped into the people of God.

The risk, though, is that the remembrance becomes common. This, I suppose, is almost as bad as not remembering at all. Paul seems to be saying as much in 1 Cor. 11:

[27] Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. [28] Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. [29] For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.
(1 Corinthians 11:27-29 ESV)

Best I can tell, the specific problem in Corinth has to do with divisive observance: some are making the Lord’s table a time of exclusion rather than inclusion. But when you back up and look at it, the greater issue is one of improper remembrance. An “unworthy manner” of the Corinthian observance stems from a collective failure to remember. The holy gathering of saints has been denigrated to little more than a matter of status and prestige, a way of marking “insiders” from “outsiders”. These are the world’s politics, not the Way of Kingdom. In Corinth, the Holy Feast of the New Covenant has become another ordinary meal, complete with the trappings of social position and economics, rather than the eschatalogical declaration of inclusivity and reciprocity for which it was intended. Paul writes and says, “You can do better than this.”

The Table is remembered for being “common” only in the sense that we share a common experience around it. None of us has merited an invitation here of our own accord. Yet, a seat has been left prepared for us by the Holy One who presides over this table — His table — marked by the promise that He will not partake of this table until the people of God share it anew on Jordan’s banks in the new Jerusalem. This is our common destiny, brothers and sisters.

And I think you’d agree…this is quite uncommon.

This entry was posted in Devotional, Eschatology, Jesus, Scripture, Social Issues and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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