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February 14, 2010


Rob Crompton

I'm very much in sympathy with this. As I come towars retirement from ministry I find myself increasingly uneasy with the most overt symbolism of the eucharist. Sometimes I will hand out the bread and the wine with the words, "the bread of heaven," and "the cup of blessing."

I recall sitting in on a school assembly not so long ago - a primary school with children aged from 4 to 11. It was a great school, wonderful happy atmosphere. But to begin their act of worship they sang, "As we are gathered.." Belted it out with gusto and feeling including the words, "born of the spirit, washed in the blood."

Washed in blood!? Four-year-olds? What on earth are we teaching them?


This is how I think of it. Jesus spoke in stories/parables and metaphors all of the time. I don't believe in transubstantiation because I think Jesus' pattern of speaking was one of metaphor and mystery. He takes the cup and the bread and he says that we should remember him as often as we eat or drink of it-- so I think, how often do I eat or drink? Pretty often. He's asking that we remember him as often as we eat or drink, that re-connecting with Him is as natural and commonplace as that. We do a very "formal" communion at church but a gathering over orange juice and crackers in someone's kitchen could just as easily be a communion. It's communion because of our prayerful approach, not because of the menu.

He speaks of his body and his blood as the elements of him that are flesh, that are with the disciples in the present moment. Jesus' physical hand is not here for me to hold, but his humanity is as much available to me today as it was for them back then. Jesus bled and cried, probably had acne and the flu-- he was a human being and experienced all the things that make up the human experience on earth. Eating and drinking is so much about satisfying physical needs, so remember his body and his blood is about remembering that he had our same physical experience as it is about remembering his sacrifices or love for us. Yes, His body was broken and His blood was poured out, but His body and blood are important on a deeper level because He shared in our experiences in every way.

Fr Craig

I agree with Nora. In my view the whole flesh and blood imagery has it's roots in the Jewish sacrificial system - the food was offered, the priest sacrificed or blessed it, took his share and gave it back to the offeror, who then ate it. Blood was, of course life itself, and Jews couldn't eat or drink it. I suspect Jesus (and surely Saul/Paul) as good Jews are tying into these powerful and entrenched notions of sacrifice. I think Jesus is referring to the wine as his blood 'poured out' as was the blood of animal sacrifices. To drink it 'in remembrance of me' is to recall the pouring of his blood. I don't care for those images in this day and age. I agree, too, that the eating and drinking together is the primary symbol - the earliest Eucharists were basically pot lucks. And I think that anytime we share food and drink - the stuff of life - it is sacramental. On the other hand, the symbolism of 'consuming' Jesus is a shocking one, and perhaps helps people think. After 2000 years, I'm not inclined to change it!


I'm hesitant to give up the church teaching on this, but I do think its possible that John's interpretation was ironic. There is a deliberate juxtaposition: in fact, Jesus is NOT being sacrificed upon the altar. That is a crucial difference. The fellowship becomes the substitute for the blood.

I think it is important to remember that bloody sacrifice is the root of civilization, but with Jesus, we don't need it anymore. If we forget, the possibility is that we return.

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