Beloved People of St. Martin’s,
The first thing on my heart today is to thank all of you for a wonderful annual meeting last Sunday. The feedback I have gotten from many of you is that you appreciated situating the meeting in the context of the Eucharist. Yet that is only natural to our experience, since it is the Eucharist that draws us together each week and is the foundation of our relationship as a community.
But it also brings us to a question: what does it mean to live a Eucharistically-centered and Eucharistically-shaped life? The 20th century Anglican liturgical scholar Dom Gregory Dix held in his work The Shape of Liturgy that there was a four-fold action at the heart of the service of communion: offering, blessing, breaking, and then sharing communion.
And that should sound right, when we reflect on it. When describing the last supper in Mark’s gospel, listen carefully to the verbs in this sentence: “And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take: this is my body’” (Mark 14:22). The verbs are similar: taking, blessing, breaking, and giving. The same verbs are used in the same order in the feeding of the multitudes, and in the encounter at Emmaus with the risen Christ in Luke 24:30-31.
Notice that the bookending verbs are taking and giving– the very same necessary rhythm of life that we repeat with every breath. Both the taking and the giving are necessary in living our lives at both a basic biological level and at a spiritual level. In the middle is the blessing and the breaking open. This seems to be the recipe for life itself—the good life of which the philosophers debated in ancient Greece and today, and which Jesus himself repeatedly modelled for us and even now calls us to embrace.
The shape of the Eucharist is the shape of a life well-lived. It is both holy and earthy. Further, it is a life shaped profoundly by thanksgiving, by gratitude, by an awareness and mindfulness of this life as a blessing.
I am convinced that this is what makes us a community of Christians. Each Saturday and Sunday, we offer our gifts, which are then taken onto the altar—mundane, simple things like bread and wine, yes, but also we offer what we value—our monetary offerings and offerings of our selves: our time and our talents for the common good. Those offerings are then blessed, consecrated, made holy through the power of the Spirit to help empower us as disciples, both individually and as a community. Those gifts are then broken open—barriers and boundaries fall, so that true sharing can take place. And then those gifts are given back, yet somehow enlarged, made greater than their constituent parts.
And so it is with us: as individuals we go about our daily lives, but as Christian disciples in this community, we do more: we witness to the glory of God, nourished and strengthened for embodying the way of Jesus, reminded and re-membered through our joining together around this altar each week, asking God to take us, bless us, break us open, and give us for the life of the world.
May we be bold enough to embody the Eucharistically-shaped life of this community out into the world. I am blessed to be walking in this journey alongside you.