Privileging the Living
The disease of our age: to think that we are morally superior to every other generation that’s ever lived. “I would never have allowed _________ if I had lived then.” To paraphrase Chesterton, we are open-minded to everything and everyone except those who happen to be dead. But is there anything in our culture, or worse yet, among Christians, that we might be ashamed to own in the future?1
We will experience a helpful corrective on Sunday. It’s called communion. When we participate in communion, the Lord’s Table, we are to “consider the body” - other brothers and sisters in Christ. We ought to do this on both an x-axis and a y-axis: we are participating in union with Christ with everyone else in the room, around the world . . . and with every other generation of Christians. We are all united into one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.
This means that the past victories and high points of the Christian faith, to some degree, we share in. And the same goes for past errors and sins. At least to the extent that we share in their same capacity to err and sin in the same way.
Disagree? Consider all that prior generations did understand and accomplish in the past, in life conditions far more painful and dangerous than our own. Then consider the embarassment of riches that we Christians possess today, that prior generations would have died for. And did die for: William Tyndale was strangled and burned to give us the Bible we so easily pull up on our iPads. Think also of our access to an explosion of Bibles, books, articles and other resources.
Then consider the sins that yet still now beset us. And consider then how complicated are our times, as a result. We don’t know the way as well as we think we do.
We need something deeper than knowledge, something stronger than self-assured, wet-tissue, superficial moral superiority.
That Something is clothed for us in the Lord’s Table. Jesus, body handed over and broken for our forgiveness; life poured out for our life; raised for our justication; present with us for our endurance; returning for our eternal joy. Jesus, our shepherd, our way, our truth, our life.
Communion reminds us that we need him, as much as any other generation. That is, desperately. And it reminds us that we have him. Drink freely from these truths this Sunday. Draw deep into faith, and hope, that your love for him may soar.2
1 If you’d like some help, here are but two examples: the number of Christians, given the stats, that have taken part in watching the rampant sexual content and rape culture of “Game of Thrones”. Another example: we read our Bibles, how the people of Israel descended into even sacrificing their own children on fires, and we rightly recoil. And then, the righteous indignation - I would never do something so horrific! No? Our culture perfectly protects and nurtures children? What do we do with unwanted children?
2 In his excellent book “Spirit and Sacrament”, Andrew Wilson gives the analogy of a trampoline to describe this. If one stands in the middle of a still trampoline, and then tries to jump, she won’t get very high at all. But if she jumps into the middle, and goes down deep, then she will soar high. So it is with our nourishment in communion. Go deep in its meaning, enjoying the presence of Christ, and watch your spirit soar high in inexpressible joy.