A Gape at Agape

July 06, 2014

by Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper
Senior Minister

I like to fuss and fiddle more than to core and focus. At a dinner party I can smooth the tablecloth a dozen times. I like to fuss about Agape too. Who got the wine? Who got the bread? Is it sliced for easy breaking. Does everybody have food at their table? Is there a sense of welcome? How many people are stuck in the back? To table or not to table? Half of you like walking up; the other half like the table. Is it time for Judson to have a renewed agape or just to buy the three more tables that we need to seat everyone at table? I love to fuss.

I am not the only one. Many of us are so aware that something big is happening during communion that we can endlessly discuss the delivery system. Plus we are incarnation lists theologically. We know that the devil is in the details and teat God is in the details. Many of us even believe that the next big idea is the big idea that the next big idea is a small one. Plus bread and wine are emphatically ordinary and we believe they carry God in them. Human habit joins the sacred ordinary in fussing about communion.

Maybe that is why the UCC understands that Baptism and Communion two sacraments. We are one at baptism and at the table. Maybe that is is why it is always important to remember your baptism at the communion table. Baptismatus Sum. I am part of this people Ched Meyers insists that the most important word in the baptism text is preposition at, in and into. That is of prepositional significance, right? Imagine a table and a chair. At under or around? Makes a difference, right. Baptized into the Jordan at the Jordan, says Ched Meyers. What that means is that we are baptized into the Christian faith. Not in the Christian faith. Or at the Christian Faith but into the great river of the Christian faith. We swim in it.

Rebecca Solnit has written a great book, A paradise built in hell: the extraordinary communities that arise in disaster. It is as good a door to gape at Agape as baptism. She says that we fall together during trouble in terribly important ways. She studies the robust communities that develop around 9 – 11 or the San Francisco Earthquake or in Katrina. Or is into Katrina. Like communion and baptism, a disaster is a great leveling. Ever want to know what to talk about at a dinner party? Talk about the last disaster you survived. You will find people in a retrospective basking, with everybody wanting to tell their story. What changes in the great leveling is that we find our neighbors are our greaest asset. Not our greatest danger.

We are thrust into each other, we fall together, in her words, during disaster. She notes how deeply communal – in communion – we are with each other when trouble hits. And how we long for that sense of community everyday there is not a disaster. Thus it is with Communion: we remember a catastrophe. Another good man is killed. But Spirit becomes so present that he also rises. His death is not the end of the story but the beginning. We remember how Spirit was present . We “reminiscence with gladness,” which is a way of talking about the Eucharist.

The most important thing that happens in the Eucharist is the beckoning of the spirit to be present in bread and wine, as the Spirit was present in baptism. When we fuss over the details, our prayer is a small one: O God, you who depend on us so much. Of course that is a false prayer. How can Spirit depend on the human without feeding the human for response? Instead, we pray O God, descend upon us, and use bread and wine or water if that is all you have. Descend, Holy Spirit, and become present to us at these tables in this bread and wine. Amen

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