“How can this not be right?”
My lips could not defeat my smile to answer. But yes, he was right: It was right.
“It” was a moment that needs repeating as much as remembering.
Picture the scene. A Tuscan villa near Arezzo. Two Dallas starched-collared friends – one a Roman Catholic priest, the other a Baptist pastor – sit among 15 Italian neighbors and my 20-year-old American son for Sunday worship. The priest conducts the liturgy in Italian and English. All understand the love language of the Spirit.
After the Gospel is read, the priest invites the Baptist to offer a homily. I hold forth on Jesus’ words from Matthew 11 about casting our cares upon him for his burden is light and his yoke is easy.
The priest offers his thoughts and then consecrates the bread and wine. After partaking of the wafer, he passes the chalice to the Baptist to share the cup of salvation with the faithful.
The body of Christ. The blood of Christ. These words have long (too long!) divided the church.
Christians exclude other Christians from the celebration because they do not interpret the nuances of “body and blood” or the significance of “sacrament” in the same way. So, instead of obeying the Lord himself and sharing the Supper as a mysterious sign of the oneness of God with the world and Christians with one another through the grace of Christ, we bear witness to the perpetual brokenness of his body.
Instead of putting up a sign at the Lord’s Table that reads, “All welcome in the name of Christ,” we ask for proper credentials. Baptismal certificates. Confirmation papers. Creedal recitations. Confessional pardons.
I know, I know, many earnest forebears – Catholic, Baptist and otherwise – have fought and died for right doctrine under banners with arcane or abstruse words like transubstantiation, consubstantiation, real presence, symbolic memorial, whatever. Attempting to get it just right, we have just forgotten our Table manners.
It is not the church’s Table, strictly speaking; it is the Lord’s Table. There is one Host who says, “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy burdened and I will give you rest.”
When churches stop the family feuding and remember that we are all guests of one Host, perhaps we will find strangers feeling welcome in the church again. Perhaps then we will once again be able to see the mystical oneness of the Church rather the manifold messiness of the churches.