Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Discerning the Body -- Feeding and Caring

Tuesday, March 28, 2006 -- Week of 4 Lent

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117

An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this link -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (p. 955)
Psalms 97, 99, [100] // 94, [95]
Genesis 49:29 - 50:14
1 Corinthians 11:17-34
Mark 8:1-10


The description of the first Eucharist at Jesus' last supper with his disciples is very possibly the most treasured narrative of the Christian scriptures. Today we read the earliest existing written account as Paul hands on what he "received from the Lord." There are similar versions in Matthew, Mark and Luke as well as The Didache from the early second century and our earliest eucharistic prayers. Every Sunday, and every time we celebrate the Eucharist, we repeat the story. "On the night when he was betrayed [Jesus] took ...bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, 'This is my body that is [broken] for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.'" Has any command ever been so followed?

Paul exhorts the congregation to celebrate their communion mindfully. He scolds them for eating "in an unworthy manner." They must "discern the body." Not only must they recognize the presence of Jesus in the communion, but also his presence in the body of the church. Paul complains that the church has failed to honor the Eucharist in two ways. First, there are divisions along social and economic lines. The wealthy eat and drink, feasting and becoming drunk, while "those who have nothing" (literally the "have-nots") are hungry. Second, they have failed to recognize the body because the church has failed to care for some who were weak and ill, and some have died. The Eucharistic community is one where all are fed and where the weak and ill are cared for.

What a nice synchronicity that we read of Jesus' feeding of the 4,000 in the Decapolis. The crowd is hungry. It is a gentile crowd -- they are in the Decapolis, ten gentile cities across the border from Israel. Jesus feeds them with seven loaves and a few fish; there are seven baskets full. (Seven is the universal mystical number symbolizing perfection -- three [the spiritual order] plus four [the created order]. Earlier Mark told of Jesus' feeding the multitude in Israel using 12 loaves with 12 baskets left over, symbolizing the 12 tribes of Israel.) The feeding is not just for the tribe of Israel. Nor is it just for the community of the Christian Church. Jesus feeds all.

It is significant not only that the Eucharist has become the characteristic form of Christian worship, but that feeding and caring are such characteristic forms of Christian ministry. That is certainly true in our congregation. We love any excuse for a meal. Every Sunday there is breakfast prepared and during Lent there is supper. We welcome all who come to Community Meals on Mondays and Wednesdays, sharing that ministry of feeding through the week with Central Methodist and Seven Hills. We feed the multitudes monthly through our Angel Food ministry. And we keep a commercial freezer filled with homemade meals for anyone who is ill or in need. We visit the hospitals and pray for the sick. We offering a healing service on Tuesdays and deliver pastoral meals regularly. We exercise various pastoral ministries of care for those who are ill or troubled. Feeding and caring are central activities for us.

Whether we are receiving communion or passing out Angel Food, Paul reminds us that it is important to recognize the presence of Christ, "discerning the body." Tomorrow he will talk about what we are to do after we have been nourished and fed by Christ.

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