Today is Holy Thursday, the day that Christians all over the world celebrate the Last Supper, the meal Jesus shared with his his disciples the night before he died. It is a reliving of the institution of the Eucharist. The rituals of this day are among the most beautiful in the Church’s repertoire.
This morning I’d like to share a blog I wrote a while back and did not release. It reveals my most radical thoughts as a Christian believer.
Before you read further, I want you to recall, if you follow my blog regularly, that honesty is vital to me in my spiritual growth. I have maintained that if a person finds a doctrine hard to accept they should be able to own up to that fact. Honesty is the beginning of a sincere search for truth. It is unfortunate that this kind of honesty is not encouraged. In fact, it is smothered in many Christian circles. But, let me tell you, a faith based on mindless acceptance of someone else’s convictions does not hold up when life gets tough. Our beliefs need to take seed and grow out of what is real in our lives. And they can change with life experience. No, let me say that differently. They will change with life experience. They are supposed to change. Sometimes we will come to believe tenets of faith that we once rejected, but if we have maintained honesty throughout, our return to those ideas will be solid.
So, here goes:
Sarah Sentilles in her book, Breaking Up With God, offered a theology of the Eucharist that I have never seen before. She was speaking as an Episcopalian, not a Catholic. I wonder what it would have been like growing up with this understanding:
“Communion is…supposed to help us remember that we are Jesus’ resurrected body. When we eat the bread and drink the wine, Jesus is re – membered, his body put back together.”
I used to think that the stories of the Jesus’ resurrection as told in the Bible were not literal, but rather, different creative tellings of the coming of the Holy Spirit. There are several of these: the story of the empty tomb, the story of the fish fry on the beach, the story of Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus, Mary Magdalene’s at the tomb, the two disciples who met Jesus as they traveled to Emmaus, Jesus going up in the clouds and the tongues of fire on the heads of the disciples. I thought that each of these stories were different people’s experience of the risen Lord and they used various symbolic images to try to explain it. I didn’t realize until well into my adult years that when most Christians talk about the Resurrection of Jesus they are talking about Jesus literally coming alive after being dead, like resuscitation but not, because his new body was different but physical nonetheless. He could go through a wall but doubting Thomas could touch the scars in his hands. As I woke up to what other people believed, I noticed that my way of thinking was considered heretical. Jesus’ physical resurrection was the proof of his divinity, they maintained. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why. In my thinking, all that proves is that miracles happen which put the resurrection in the same category with the healings. For me, the idea that one could experience the risen Lord in some mysterious way after he died and even centuries after he walked the earth was way more convincing if one were looking for proof. But of course, one cannot prove such a thing, at least to others. One can only have an experience and believe it is an experience of the Spirit of Jesus. So the proof is only such to the person who has it. It can be talked about, but one cannot make another person have the experience. One can only sit by and wait, like a midwife.
Many of the people who awakened me to the idea of a physical resurrection were people I worked for: the hierarchy of the Church that employed me, the board members who had various opinions about how good a job I was doing, and the parents of the children I educated. Needless to say, I never told anyone what I was thinking. It didn’t bother me if people believed in the physical resurrection but I just couldn’t go there with them. I’d had an experience myself that I named as Christian. I have been trying to understand its meaning in my life ever since. At this point in my journey, the need to fully understand my experience is waning. It is even somewhat distracting. I am starting to let it go and just live life. It sure is less stressful and it seems less self-centered.
Many will be disappointed in my belief, or lack thereof. But I think I am just being truthful. For those who put so much importance on doctrinal beliefs that they fear I am going to hell, well, I don’t know what to do about that. I think I have already been to hell, actually. I am living in the Resurrection now.