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My understanding of the Lord's Supper was greatly enlarged by Sara Miles book, Take This Bread, a memoir.

(She was a war correspondent and a chef who wandered into an Episcopal Church in San Francisco one day, took communion, and it changed her life.)

At St. Gregory's they'd come to an understanding of the Lord's Table as open to all, "y'all come!" and Baptism as the later invitation to deeper engagement. So they flipped the understanding and order of the sacraments. Makes some sense, Jesus ate with lots of people (as you say, even Judas.) How they got all this past their Bishop, I dunno.

That same altar, especially designed for St. Gregory's, becomes the location of the church's mid-week food pantry. Food freely given-- in worship and in practice.

Steve Shiffrin

Thanks Taryn, I had not heard of Sara Miles, but I went to her
website http://saramiles.net/ and discovered that she has
endorsements from people like Annie LaMott and Brian McLaren, not to
mention your recommendation (which was good enough to begin with). 
The site mentions other books she has written including Jesus Freak,
which sounds great and together with Take This Bread I would like to


This morning in Tony Jones' blog:

"In fact, (Jurgen) Moltmann, in The Church in the Power of the Spirit, lists six characteristics of the Lord’s Supper that he considers imperative:

1. Communion must be central to the Christian community, must be integrated into the heart of the worship service (not tacked on at the end), and must be celebrated with bread and wine.
2. The table must be open to those of varying theological views.
3.Baptism and confirmation must not be prerequisites for the fellowship of the table.
4. Everyone who follows Christ is qualified to administer the sacrament, and everyone is called upon to offer and distribute the elements. (!)
5. Not only should the person performing the liturgy face the congregation, but the entire worship space should, if possible, be redesigned to a “‘common room’ in which the participants can see and talk to one another.
6. Communion should always be followed by “a common meal, and the proclamation of the gospel by a common discussion of people’s real needs and the specific tasks of Christian mission.”[1]

[1] Jürgen Moltmann, The Church in the Power of the Spirit, 259-60.

I consider this model something to work towards.


I generally think that obedience to legitimate authority is what we should work towards, not our own vision of what Christian worship should look like. If humble obedience is not primary, we run the risk of turning the church, and even Christian worship, into something we create, not something we receive. Ulimately, we can only be Christians if we live in a posture of receptivity. In this regard, I recommend Pope Benedict's book The Spirit of the Liturgy as a wonderful explanation of what Christian worship is and why it is not ours to remake in our own image.

The difference in Catholic and Protestant practice largely has to do with what communion is. The Protestant practice largely treats communion as a symbol, or something close to it, while the Catholic Church says it is everything - the new covenant, Jesus, in body, blood, soul and divinity. Many people who leave the Catholic church and become Protestants leave without ever arriving, because they never wrestle with the central mystical claim of the Catholic faith: that the Mass is not just a communal meal of symbolic importance, but the pure offering prophesied in Malachai. It is the fullness of Christian faith.

Ask the Catholics who have left the Church when they last went to a holy hour of adoration, and their answer to that question will give you an insight into why they left. If they never went to adoration or felt a desire to go, or thought it was just an odd habit of the super-orthodox, they probably never understood what they were receiving at Mass: God himself, in flesh and blood. If they understoood what they were receiving, they would likely never leave.

In many ways, leaving the Catholic Church out of ignorance of this truth, or a sincere rejection of the teaching that the Eucharist is Jesus, body, blood, soul and divinity, is understandable, even if tragic. The problem is that each Protestant denomination that creates its own set of teachings and ways of worship and leadership structure, reveals a great disunity within the Christian church. Instead of teaching the world about universal reconciliation in Christ, each new denomination reveals to the world that they think they know better than the Catholic Church (or even the Protestant church they just left). Everyone gets to decide what Christian faith is, and what Christian worship is, because no one thinks they have to obey legitimate authority. Now we have 200,000 Christian denominations, each with their own worship style, sacraments, leadership structure, even though Jesus told us we should all be one, and Paul told us that there was only one breach, one body, one cup, one Lord.

The Mass is supposed to be the pure offering instituted by Christ, where Christ's death on Calvary is re-presented sacramentally, and the Son offers himself (and those who share in his body) back to the Father in self-giving love, and where all Christians, even those who hate each other, put their disputes aside because the reception of Jesus is more important - it is supposed to be the sign to the world of the reconciliation that is possible when faith in God is primary, and our own preferences are secondary. Unfortunately, we now live in an age where we want to have the last word, and humility and obedience are seen as weakness of mind.

Rob C.

You state that:

One of the aspects of the Church that persistently troubled me were the attempts without biblical foundation to say which sinners could receive communion and which could not.

1st Corinthians 11:27-29 provides a sound biblical foundation for the denial of the Eucharist to sinners:

"Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly."

Indeed, one could argue that the denial of the Eucharist to those guilty of serious sin is an act of charity, for the one who does not judge themselves rightly "eats and drinks judgment to himself."

Antonio Manetti

"[O]ne could argue that the denial of the Eucharist to those guilty of serious sin is an act of charity, for the one who does not judge themselves rightly "eats and drinks judgment to himself."

Is there anything in scripture empowering anyone but the individual concerned to make such a judgement?

Surely, access to the mind and heart of others is open only to God.

Supra Skytop

To put it another way, put yourself in say the shoes of Danger Ehren and pretend you're about to lay your ass (or tooth) on the line for something that may or may not make the movie—believe me, you're going to want Pontius in your peanut gallery corner because his verbal presence may just be the deciding factor in the fate of your segment.

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