As a former chef and culinary adventurer I often draw inspiration from the world of food to explain theological points. It turns out that I’m in good company doing so. Jesus Himself used everyday food and drink to reveal the theological point, namely Himself.
There are many theological points out there. History have a way to accumulate them as she walks down the path of eternity. In a way there are as many theological points, belief systems and interpretations of faith as there are people. It would be somewhat obnoxious to think that everyone that has ever lived will eventually recognize one universal truth about reality, yet this is what Scripture gives witness to in several places. (Rom 14:11, Eph 1:10, Phil 2:9 – 11, Rev 5:13)
As generations affected by scholasticism, as children of reason, critical thinking and opinion we have succumbed to the idea that it is the idea/opinion/interpretation about a particular topic or thing that must take precedence in terms of understanding it. In the West we have come to view knowledge as information only. For instance, if two or three (or more) people agrees upon the idea about a particular topic it is that agreement that forms the basis for their activity together.
If we disagree about the idea then we no longer can have true fellowship since the fellowship were based upon information and interpreting the rules regarding this information in the same way.
So how will we arrive at a universal recognition of reality?
By Reality presenting Itself as a Person rather than an idea only.
This reality (rather than idea) is what separates Christianity from other beliefs. Yet within Christianity we have launched so many different ideas about how to interpret this mysterious reality that we no longer eat at the same table. The irony of christianity is that the way of salvation that was reveled through Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, The theological Point, is being used as one of the prime issues that divides the Church. This does not come as a surprise since both Eucharist and the Church (and the rest of life) is sacramental in their nature. A family can not thrive if they do not occasionally eat together. As the Eucharist goes, so goes the Church and vice versa. They need each other intrinsically. With four or five different major ideas about the Eucharist it is only a natural consequence that the Church is cutting Herself short of Her full potential.
The ideas about the Eucharist took a logical journey if you compare them to major Church splits. (I’v e kept this section brief as not to focus to much on our points of divison)
It began in the 7th century with a lack of communication and common language between Rome and Constantinople that got worse and worse and culminated in the great schism in 1054. The Eucharist was used as the method to enforce the split. Prior to this the Eucharist was received as the body and blood of Christ by the unified Church as the mystery it is, Someone Real you receive in faith. Ideas about the Eucharist were non prevalent. It was a reality to enter rather then an idea to understand.
In the empirical Roman Catholic environment there arose a desire to explain the mystery and the doctrine of transubstantiation was birthed. Maybe this desire was motivated by wanting to define the Roman Catholic Eucharist as separate from the Eastern Orthodox? Maybe it was motivated by wanting to enforce more uniform liturgy and expresson, maybe both? Maybe for some other reason, for whatever reason the Eucharist was now subject to philosophical argument and definition.
Not surprisingly the reformers rejected the idea of transubstantiation because of it’s attempt to exactly describe how the Eucharist works by saying that the bread and the wine turns into, literally, the flesh and blood of Christ. With Calvin in the lead and reason as their sword they launched the idea that Christ was only spiritually present in the Eucharist forming the doctrine called receptionism. This understanding of the Eucharist is quite different from Martin Luthers sacramental union but a logical consequence of the same.
Many other groups most chief maybe the baptists, have adopted the doctrine that was introduced by Zwingli, namely that the Eucharist is primarily something done as a memorial.
The Church has not agreed upon the Eucharist for quite some time and the Church find herself in a place of division, this is not coincidence. As long as we believe that we will all agree upon a common idea about the Eucharist we miss The Point of the mystery of the Eucharist. The Point is that it was never about ideas of how to interpret, it was always about receiving The Point in faith, having It become a part of you and you a part of It.
All ecumenical dialogue will be found in want until we actually approach the table together, having confessed to one another and forgiven one another for past wrongs, and receive of the body and blood of Christ in a mystery.
As The Point He is the only one that can bring unity. It is in front of Him every knee shall bow and every tongue confess. It is He Who can open the scroll.
A month or so ago I asked a question at a ecumenical forum: “Is there is any hope for the Church to receive the Eucharist together in any foreseeable future and what would that look like?”. The Roman Catholic representative answered basically that we shall hope for that, that is why we are in dialogue but that there are many obstacles. The evangelical representative answered that: “You can come and receive the Eucharist at any anyone of our churches, I’ll hook you up this weekend if you want. To us it’s a none issue.” These comments shows how far apart we are in our understanding of the Eucharist and I don’t propose that we partake of the Holy Sacrament if we understand it to be fundamentally different in terms of what it actually is. What I am proposing is that we pursue a point through relationship where we recognize that we have to step out in faith and share the meal that has the power to transform our understanding of who we are and Who He is by us partaking of His body and blood. Let’s submit to one another in love.
At some point talking about recipes and techniques must evolve into the actual enjoyment of the food, right? What we can learn from food is that no matter how much we talk about it, we won’t truly get to know it unless we eat it, taste it and it becomes a part of us. (Something we truly get to appreciate when we fast in Lent..)
Jesus Himself descended to earth so that we might know Him, not only have information about Him, then the Old Testament would have been enough.
The unity of the Church can not begin with everyone agreeing upon every little technicality about how to prepare the food or what exactly the food is because things like that are all wrapped up in our action. It must begin with an acknowledgement that we receive food from God as gift in a personal way and we enjoy it the most when in company with others. We are dependent on it for life. It becomes part of our being. Not until we surrender to His Reality will we be able to see further than our own interpretation of it. With this being said I have one more comment:
Let’s eat after our fast, acknowledging that all good things, life itself comes from God.