Monday, January 13, 2014

A Living Sign

It is a common misconception that Quakers don't do communion. Quakers do, in fact, practice the Eucharist, but in a different way. For us, the sacrament of communion with Christ is an ever-present spiritual reality--a reality which transcends the symbols of bread and wine. Thus, the outward ritual and physical elements tend to be viewed by Quakers as superfluous.

But on Sunday I stood in a line and received a wafer dipped in grape juice. It was given to me by a lesbian sister in Christ after being blessed by a gay priest. I felt moved to participate outwardly, as well as inwardly, in this communion in order to enact the truth I saw around me that I and the 700 mostly LGBTQ people I was with were all part of the body of Christ: one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-5)

As the attendees at the Gay Christian Network conference lined up to take communion, a choir made up of conference-goers sang a stunningly beautiful high-church hymn (see the video clip below for a taste). But the words from another hymn came to my mind. They are from a 16th century Dutch Anabaptist hymn entitled What Is This Place?. The Anabaptists were rejected and persecuted by the larger church. The stanza that came to my remembrance was this:

"And we accept bread at his table,
Broken and shared,
A living sign here in this world,
Dying and living,
We are each other's bread and wine."

This was the "living sign" that the bread and wine symbolized for me on Sunday: That Christ was present and we were his body, broken and shared with one another.

(Here are the complete words to What Is This Place?):

What is this place where we're meeting?
Only a house, the earth its floor,
Walls and a roof sheltering people,
Windows for light, an open door,
Yet it becomes a body that lives,
When we are gathered here,

And know our Lord is near,

Words from afar, stars falling,
Sparks that are sown in us like seed,
Names for our God, dreams, signs and wonders,
Sent from the past are what we need,
We in this place remember and speak,
Again what we have heard,

God's free redeeming word,

And we accept bread at His table,
Broken and shared,
A living sign, here in this world,
Dying and living,
We are each other's bread and wine,

This is the place,
Where we can receive,
What we need,
To increase God's justice,
And God's peace.


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