The Broken Body of Christ

From Brad

The blood of Christ, shed for you.

I repeated these words over and over one recent Sunday morning as my daughter Anna and I together served the Eucharist. She held the bread; I, the cup.

The blood of Christ, shed for you.

For the kid who takes the elements and runs, dribbling juice across the floor from an over-dipped chunk of bread.

The blood of Christ, shed for you.

For the young woman who drops her bread in the cup and exclaims, “What do I do? Should I just leave it?” as we chuckle together over this mishap with a piece of the body. I try not to laugh as I serve the next two folks in line, who happen to be first-time visitors.

The blood of Christ, shed for you.

My mind goes back to Diaconal retreat a year ago and a difficult conversation that played out. Concern was raised about who we are at Mountainside—and who we might be becoming.

One particular statement was hurtful to others around the circle. It led to a hard conversation, debate, and raised painful but important questions. We all left a bit shaken.

That night I wrote down some reflections that I am still wrestling with a year later:

I think part of what hurt is that our call is in fact to the Body of Christ that we meet in the celebration of the Eucharist. It’s not just the body “on the table,” as was mentioned a few times, but also the body represented by those of us who gather. Our gathering is our attentiveness to the faithfulness of Christ in us, His body on earth in Monrovia, Sunday after Sunday. We gather as the broken body of Christ. That includes “churchy people” as well as those who don’t like them. It includes our different opinions on gay marriage, and our very real friends who feel polarized by those opinions and the way they’re expressed (or kept silent) on Sunday mornings in particular.

If all of our work is oriented toward the shape of the Eucharist, then our task and question become, how faithful are we being to that work?

I actually think our posture toward hospitality, compassionate action, neighbor engagement, etc. tends to be very much in line with this. And, of course, we can be more faithful or more attentive to Christ’s faithfulness.

But we are always the broken body. And our choice is either to disdain the broken body or to love it. But we tend to love certain parts of its brokenness (gay couples, immigrants, whoever else it’s unacceptable for “establishment” Christians to love at the time), while overtly disdaining other parts (“churchy” people, families with too many kids, whoever feels like the establishment.)

I wonder if perhaps our work as Diaconal is to love the church. Perhaps this posture could be a starting point to move forward. Do we love the church, Christ’s broken body, and can that be the center of our call to shared work?

I returned to the retreat the next day wondering if this could in fact be a way forward. For me at least, it has been. Do I love Christ’s broken body? Can I re-center my work around that each week just as I re-center my worship around the Christ who did in fact give his body to be broken for us?

The blood of Christ, shed for you.

Since that time, God has been opening my eyes to a lavish generosity. Isaiah 55:1 warmly invites, “All of you who are thirsty, come to the water! Whoever has no money, come, buy food and eat! Without money, at no cost, buy wine and milk!” As it turns out, God’s generosity is not for us to decide, contrive, or manipulate. It’s rather for us to notice, receive, and share open-handed.

Eucharist is the generosity of God on display. The fruit of the vine and of the field, brought together to become Christ’s broken body and blood, shared with us that we might have life. This is the good news of the Kingdom, and it’s good news for all of us.

Our Sundays focus relentlessly around the table, bringing the broken body of Christ together to remember and celebrate our Eucharistic life. We don’t get this right all the time. Maybe not even most of the time. But each week we stumble to and from the table, seeking again the presence of Christ in His body and blood, in the elements served, and in one another.

The blood of Christ, shed for you.