Ingesting God

Essays, Family, Food and Drink — By on April 25, 2012 at 10:31 am

Growing up in the Methodist Church, it seems we were regularly celebrating communion in new and different ways.  I appreciated the diversity in approach, as each new form somehow brought out a different aspect of the act of remembrance.  One form, however, I remember more for the laughter it produced, than anything else.

Individual families took turns contributing by making homemade communion bread.  During the time of communion, the loaf of bread was passed around the sanctuary, and individuals were instructed to tear off a piece, and dip it in the accompanying cup.

On this particular week, someone (it might have been my mom) had baked a “healthy” bread – and healthy meant the complete opposite of soft, pliable, and easily tear-able.  As the bread came to my dad, he had an awful time tearing off a small piece.  He in fact tore off a good 1/4 of the loaf.

My sister and I, both giggling along with my dad, took some of his bread, leaving him still with enough to make a good sandwich or two.  My mom gave all three of us the “mom look” but we couldn’t stop laughing.  When we were told to take and eat, my dad dutifully shoved the entire piece into his mouth.  And he chewed, and chewed, and chewed, and chewed.  It took him well into the second or third verse of the closing hymn before his mouth was empty enough to join us in singing.

I had long forgotten that incident, until a few weeks ago.  At The Bridge, the house church I lead, we celebrate communion almost weekly, as we have found it a meaningful way to commune with God and re-member ourselves to his family.  We typically use a loaf of bread, and on this particular week, one of my six-year-old boys tore off an excessively large piece of bread.

Immediately in my mind, I wanted to discipline him for taking too much.  “This isn’t a meal.”  “Don’t be rude and take too much.”  “Just a small piece is sufficient.”  But by the time the service ended and I had the opportunity to speak with him, I had decided to instead say nothing.  Firstly, I was reminded of the communion incident with my dad.  Mistakes happen.

But secondly, and even more importantly, I listened to my own statements of intended discipline.  This isn’t a meal….don’t be rude and take too much…just a small piece is sufficient.  And I began to question whether my son perhaps understood the concept of communion more than I do.

That communion is really about Jesus.  It’s about fully taking him in.  Eating fully of his body and blood that he freely offers.  That it’s about ingesting God.

Here I was worried about my son politely taking a small piece of God so as to not look selfish or greedy.  But while I was focused on what everyone else might be thinking by his over-zealous piece, he was communing with God.

And that got me thinking about the rest of my life.  Do I routinely take just a little piece of God?  A big enough piece to show the world I’m communing with him, but not so much that I look weird?  Do I take a polite portion, but nothing that will attract unwanted attention?  As I ingest God, do I do so with reservation and restraint, or with eager anticipation and joy?  I’m reminded of the picture of the early church, daily meeting in the temple courts, and in their homes, breaking bread and eating together with gladness and singleness of hearts.  Their actions strike me as being closer to my son’s approach, than my own reaction.

Jesus invites us to ingest God at his table – a communal table of unity, sacrifice, celebration, remembrance – a table that foreshadows the great banquet.  And as we ingest God, at both the literal table, and throughout our week, daily engaging with him, may we do so without reservation, without restraint.  May we not limit ourselves as to how much of God we take, being concerned how our passionate devotion may appear to others.

What other faith invites its followers to “take and eat” of their god?  It’s a strange idea that automatically turns heads and raises eyebrows.  Let us not be hesitant or timid in approaching this strangely beautiful act of ingesting God.  Let us eagerly, with joy, approach the table he has set before us with the same unabated enthusiasm as my six-year-old son.

 

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    5 Comments

  • Kristen,

    I head up communion at my church, and love it when younger (i.e. kids) tear off asteroid-sized chunks of bread. Why not truly “take and eat”? :) Ha!

    I recently wrote about communion in relation to cannibalism and the music of Michael Knott on IMAGE Journal’s “Good Letters” blog a few months back. Here’s the link to it:

    http://imagejournal.org/page/blog/the-cannibal-and-the-eucharist

    I thought you might enjoy it. It’s not as grisly as it sounds, I assure you. It’s at least a thematic cousin to your piece here. :)

    Take and eat, and make sure the piece you take is a big one!

    - CTJ

    • Thanks for sharing your piece – it gave me a lot to chew on. Love some of the ideas your brought up in it! And, it’s great to meet you…

      And on a completely unrelated note – maybe you can tell me how to get a photo beside my name up here on Burnside instead of a generic head outline? I can’t seem to figure it out???

  • This is brilliant. And I’m reminded how I’m always holding myself back, even at times shamig myself, in my communion with him. I’m in the process of learning to live without spiritual restraint (which is tough when I feel boxed in by regular life!).

    • Thanks Kim! I too often find myself holding back, but don’t know why….the few times I haven’t, it’s been beautiful, but fleeting. And you bring up an excellent point – how can we live unrestrained before God even though we are often quite restrained in our day-to-day living.

  • Dr. Loyd says:

    Kristen…
    This is beautiful! It gives me a completely different perspective for the ‘eaters’ at my Catholic Church. The bread is blessed before it is served and they believe that it transubstantiates into the actual body of Christ… so they cannot merely throw it away when there is extra. It must be consumed, thus the eaters. Sometimes they have to eat a lot of ‘the body of Christ,’ like a half a loaf each! I thought this was rather silly. But now, well, maybe I will sign up to be an eater!
    Thanks, Kristen!

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