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A Sacramental Reality

Where God Meets Us

Wednesday, April 27th, 2022

Popular Christian author Rachel Held Evans (1981–2019) has an expansive understanding of how Christians, as the body of Christ, can celebrate the sacraments together:

Something about communion triggers our memory and helps us see things as they really are. Something about communion opens our eyes to Jesus at the table. . . .

“God works through life, through people, and through physical, tangible, and material reality to communicate [God’s] healing presence in our lives,” explains Robert E. Webber when describing the principle of sacrament. “God does not meet us outside of life in an esoteric manner. Rather, [God] meets us through life incidents, and particularly through the sacraments of the church. Sacrament, then, is a way of encountering the mystery.” [1]

This is the purpose of the sacraments, of the church—to help us see, to point to the bread and wine, the orchids and the food pantries, the post-funeral potlucks and the post-communion dance parties, and say: pay attention, this stuff matters; these things are holy. . . .

Enter one another’s joy, one another’s family, one another’s messes, one another’s suppers.

Evans also encourages us to recognize and celebrate the sacramental nature of Jesus’ ministry:

Indeed, the word sacrament is derived from a Latin phrase which means “to make holy.” When hit with the glint of love’s light, even ordinary things become holy. And when received with open hands in the spirit of eucharisteo, the signs and wonders of Jesus never cease. The 150-plus gallons of wine at Cana point to a generous God, a God who never runs out of holy things. This is the God who, much to the chagrin of Jonah, saved the rebellious city of Nineveh, the God who turned five loaves of bread and a couple of fish into a lunch to feed five thousand with baskets of leftovers to spare. This God is like a vineyard manager who pays a full day’s wage for just one hour of work, or like a shepherd who leaves his flock in search of a single lamb, or like a father who welcomes his prodigal son home with a robe, a ring, and a feast.

We have the choice, every day, to join in the revelry, to imbibe the sweet wine of undeserved grace, or to pout like Jonah, argue fairness like the vineyard employees, resent our own family like the prodigal’s older brother. At its best, the church administers the sacraments by feeding, healing, forgiving, comforting, and welcoming home the people God loves. At its worst, the church withholds the sacraments in an attempt to lock God in a theology, a list of rules, a doctrinal statement, a building.

But our God is in the business of transforming ordinary things into holy things, scraps of food into feasts and empty purification vessels into fountains of fine wine. This God knows his way around the world, so there’s no need to fear. . . . There’s always enough—just taste and see. There’s always and ever enough.

References:
[1] Robert E. Webber, Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail: Why Evangelicals Are Attracted to the Liturgical Church (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing, 1985), 45.

Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church (Nashville, TN: Nelson Books, 2015) 132, 155–157.

Explore Further:

Image credit: Patricia Duncan, Flight of Lesser Sandhill Cranes (detail), 1975, photograph, Nebraska, public domain, National Archives. Morgan Winston, Bread and Goblet of Juice for Communion (detail), 2020, photograph, Florida, free use. Jenna Keiper, Winter Trees (detail), 2021, photograph, Washington, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: God’s sacramental reality is much bigger and more ordinary than what we often consider “holy.” The Divine Presence is found in bread, wine, a sedge of sandhill cranes, and trees in winter.

Story from Our Community:

I have a deeper appreciation of the entire cosmos—creation as the first incarnation. Two years ago my husband and I left New England and moved to Florida. Here palm trees replace the pines of Maine and where we once loved the maples of Vermont, now the egrets, heron, and ibis entertain us all day long. Whether maples or live oaks, robins or egrets, it is all One along with me in this Christ-soaked world.
—Glenny D.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

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