Tuesday, July 16, 2013


The following story was originally written in April 2011:


Taking the bread and giving thanks, he broke it and gave it to them saying, ‘This is my body given on your behalf.  Do this in remembrance of me.

--Luke 22:19

They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

       --Acts 2:46b-47

He loves us and he will always love us in the house of the Lord.

--Allenia, age 9, written on the glass door in our living room

   It’s seven-thirty on a Friday night, and the sun is beginning its nightly routine, slowly melting into the horizon and forming rivers of red, orange, and yellow.  The late light flows through the power lines that run from our house into the distant sky and bathes our red-and-white, wood-frame house in hues that speak of longing and promise.  Josh, Emily, and John are the first to feel the outpouring of the sky.  They are sitting on the roof and watching that deeply spiritual phenomenon that is the end of a day.

Below them I sit at the picnic table under the car port, surrounded by a buzz of activity.  Out in the gravel lot under the power lines, kids are doing cartwheels and tossing around a football. Beside me at the table, Anna and Donovan are finger painting with a couple of ACU students.  Black and white hands become unrecognizable in the assortment of blues, whites, and greens as they leave handprints on construction paper and on the hearts of those who are meeting God in the other.

In the kitchen, Faith and Aaron are finishing up dinner, Lily is washing some dishes from a late lunch, and Conner is keeping his eye on the ice-cream maker, spinning away in its bucket of ice and adding to the din.  Soon the artists’ table will be returned to its original purpose, and the many miscellaneous conversations about life, love, faith, and struggle happening throughout the house will cease – better yet, will converge, as young and old, black and white, male and female, Christian and Sojourner, poor and rich, join hands and give thanks for God’s provision and love.

We have big dreams for the Allelon community.  We want to see transformation in our neighborhood, in our churches, in our city, in our country, and in our world.  Visions abound: a community garden, an after-school program, a neighborhood association.  We dream of abandoned crack houses and flourishing schools.  We dream of parks being safe on a Friday night.  We dream of every person in our hood knowing the love of God and extending it to others.

  The realization of these dreams must begin with inner transformation.  As anxious as we may be to see systemic, structural change, there is no way forward as long as the walls in our hearts remain standing, walls of racism, classism, individualism, and materialism that separate us from God and from each other.  In the Allelon house, community meals have become times of holy demolition.
As we sit down at the table with others who do not look, talk, act, or think like us, as we share laughter and debate and prayer and grief, as we serve and are served, God breaks down every wall that divides us.  For us eating is not just a necessity; it is not a means to an end.  The table is a place of communion, where we as Christ’s body remember the story of his great love for us.

  The Last Supper is one of the most celebrated and remembered scenes from the Bible.  It was Jesus’ final meal with his disciples.  From Jesus’ words and actions at this meal comes the ancient sacrament of Eucharist, in which we share in Christ’s body and blood.  I have no doubt that this is a Eucharistic text and that the early church was practicing communion as a ritual by the time the gospel accounts were penned.  But I also read this story on another level.

  Jesus is sharing a meal with his disciples, just like they have countless times before.  With his pending departure weighing heavily on his mind, Jesus breaks the bread and asks his disciples to do the same in remembrance of him, as if to say, “Listen fellas, I’m getting ready to leave.  See this bread that I’m breaking?  My body is about to be broken for you.  See this wine that we’re about to pass around?  My blood is about to be poured out for you.  You will share countless meals in the future.  When you do, when you see the bread and feel the weight of the cup in your hands, remember me and what I soon will do for you.”

  Communion as a sacrament is wonderful, an ancient tradition full of life.  But communion as a party where the family of God gets together and celebrates Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection in their conversation and in their love for each other is also a beautiful way to fulfill those words of Christ, “Do this in remembrance of me.”  Every meal is an opportunity to partake in communion. We celebrate his body that was broken and his blood that was shed; and we celebrate his body that is living, the community of saints, diverse and gifted, often dysfunctional, always redeemed – the Church.

  At community meals more than at any other time, I have an overwhelming awareness that God is doing something much bigger than me – much bigger than any of us.  I look around this small house in a forgotten neighborhood and see signs of life, dreams becoming reality as God brings the Kingdom here.  When Anna sits on my lap and John learns to forgive his enemy; when I confess sin to my brothers and from their eyes and mouths receive the forgiveness of Jesus; when Poon recites a poem and Kenderick returns my smile; when we join hands around the table – I feel the weight of all God has done and a longing for all these signs around me to reach their fulfillment as God’s kingdom finally and fully comes on earth as it is in heaven.

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