At the upcoming Missional Learning Commons in Fort Wayne (Jan 8-9, 2010), Chris Smith and I will be giving a talk on “Crucial Practices for Deeper Churches.” We’ll be discussing how corporate worship and communal economics are intertwined in the community of faith to shape us for participation in God’s mission. I have become fascinated by the connection between these two things, especially in the early church. You could call it “Eucharistic economics.”
It turns out John Howard Yoder has a lot to say on the subject. So here are several conversation-provoking quotes from the chapter on Eucharist in Yoder’s Body Politics:
The meal that Jesus blessed that evening and claimed as his memorial was their ordinary partaking together of food for the body.
In celebrating their fellowship around the table, the early Christians testified that the messianic age, often pictured as a banquet, had begun.
What the New Testament is talking about whenever the theme is “breaking bread” is that people actually were sharing with one another their ordinary day-to-day material sustenance.
Bread eaten together is economic sharing. Not merely symbolically, but also in fact, eating together extends to a wider circle the economic solidarity normally obtained within the family.
The Eucharist is an economic act. To do rightly the practice of breaking bread together is a matter of economic ethics.
The Eucharist is one [way of planting signs of the new world in the ruins of the old], but so is feeding the hungry. One is not more “real presence” than the other.
That last quote especially resonates with one of the prayers we pray when we partake in the Eucharist meal in our worship gatherings (which directly precedes and flows into a time of eating together):
Come and embrace us with your life-giving power
that as bread and wine are made one with us,
we may become one with you.
Come and make of your gathered people
the real presence of Christ for the world,
living our prayer and praying our life
till justice and mercy kiss,
earth and heaven are reconciled,
the kingdoms of this world
become the kingdom of our Father
and the glory of the Lord covers the earth
as the waters cover the sea.
Christ’s “real presence” is among us as we partake in the meal together, and thus Christ’s “real presence” is in the world as we live out our lives together.