Sacred Cows at the Lord’s Table | Forum for Theological Exploration

Sacred Cows at the Lord’s Table

By: Cassidhe Hart
January 06, 2015

There were four of us young adults: my United Methodist self, an Episcopalian, a self-avowed Luthera-costal, and a non-denominational turned Presbyterian. As we sat together in the musty, old-fashioned bed and breakfast that was our home-base for the Wild Goose Festival, all we needed to do was plan a short communion service. Everything from the full Episcopalian Rite to the simple announcement of a table in the back was suggested. One person was adamant we include confession before partaking; another was uncomfortable using the language of sin. It was a fraught and tender conversation, and what would take only ten minutes of festival time in our chapel tent took us hours to work through.

It was a fraught and tender conversation, and what would take only ten minutes of festival time in our chapel tent took us hours to work through.

This was the first time I had seen the deep theological assumptions implicit in the Eucharistic sacrament dragged out from their usual hiding places behind religious habit. What, I started wondering, is the difference between a sacred cow and a holy ritual? Is it what keeps us from communing with others versus what enables us to encounter the divine? The problem, however, is that what empowers one person to experience God might leave another person feeling disconnected. What is an icon for me may look like - or even function as - an idol to someone else.

In the end, there was something beautifully exciting and moving about enacting the service. I understood why when I heard festival speaker Tim Sorens explain that “Bonds grow not through shared beliefs but through shared brokenness.” Each of us chapel coordinators brought a different theology to the sacramental table, and we all had to compromise, to give up some part of the holy icons we cherished for the sake of true and full communion. I had to let go of the need to control the planning process and instead open myself to receive the messiness of working together. And that is why this experience of the sacrament was more meaningful to me than any of the other hundred times I have participated in it with people who claim my own beliefs. This time, like the bread we shared, I had been broken open.

And that is why this experience of the sacrament was more meaningful to me than any of the other hundred times I have participated in it with people who claim my own beliefs. This time, like the bread we shared, I had been broken open.

As I stood at the front of the tent, looking each person in the eye to say this is the cup of the New Covenant, I knew that I was standing exactly where I had been called to be: a place of joyful gratitude for the grace that brings us through our brokenness and our division to a table of wholeness and life.

Photo by Bradley Buhro

Tags...: Thinking Out Loud, Storytelling Series


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