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Thanksgiving & Eucharist

Posted by Remy on March 31, 2009

It’s Thanksgiving dinner and magnificent feast is presented before you. It is a time of celebration and happiness, but you want to mark it with solemnity so you bow your head, so you do not speak to your companions. The food is good, but you prefer to think about how you don’t deserve it and what suffering the cook must have undergone to prepare it. Someone calls for a song and you suggest a sad one, something that will inspire guilt in everyone. And the end of the meal you drag yourself up to the host and apologize for causing such pains. 

The next week the host invites you back again. Another huge feast, and you wonder why he keeps torturing himself like this.

19 Responses to “Thanksgiving & Eucharist”

  1. joshgibbs said

    What would you make of the idea that the Sabbath is more about justice than relaxing? That Jesus comes to raise up the poor, to do acts of mercy on the Sabbath, and that all our talk of partying and getting fat on Sunday is just religiously veiled selfishness? Just, well, what would you make of someone who said that?

  2. Remy said

    The idea that the Sabbath is more about justice than sabbathing, strikes me initially as pitting God’s attributes against himself.

    Part of raising up the poor entails inviting them into the feast. To talk about partying and waxing fat does no good at all and I would agree that it is selfishness. Submitting to the feast and living in gratitude does worlds of good.

    I would think that someone who said such a thing either 1) is in a situation where the church isn’t living up to her role 2) mistakes the Sabbath or 3) thinks too highly of himself and 4) some combination of all three.

    In worship we ascend into heaven and observe how the world should work. After we are equipped we are sent into the world to make heaven on earth. In worship the bride is clothed and fed and healed and if the bride does not return to the world doing these things she is not living up to her role.

    The bride, in worship, is to receive the gifts in gratitude, not disdaining them because “he is rich and the world is poor”. This is how the father trains us. In His presence we are poor, hungry, and in need of mercy. For us to abandon the feast is to disdain the work of Jesus for us and to disregard the blueprint for bringing heaven on earth. There is more, but this is the short answer.

  3. Josh said

    Perhaps, but what do the Gospels make a point of showing us as regards Christ’s actions on the Sabbath? What does Jesus actually do? He is known for His mercy.

    Christians today aren’t really known for being merciful at all, let alone being merciful on the Sabbath. Christians in America are quickly becoming that group of people everyone really hopes never gets its way, lest there be an ocean of blood from New York to LA. We’re sharpening our knives and our rhetoric for the day we’re on top. I sincerely doubt many Christians are rising up into Glory and seeing the blueprint for community and civilization as you describe.

  4. Remy said

    This is not an either/or, this is not a both/and, Christ’s mercy cannot be separated from the feast. So I agree, Christ is known for his mercy.

    Your statement about Christians today is either naive or slanderous of the bride. Christ’s bride is not so ineffective as you make her out to be. Certainly the church has problems, but ingratitude solves nothing.

  5. joshgibbs said

    Actually, what I was saying was more offensive than you took it for, I think. The Bride obeys the commands of Christ. If you don’t do what Christ says, you aren’t the Bride. We, of course, want to piddle this idea away with, “Well, no one’s perfect” or “But look at all the good things we *have* done” or “Look at our Sunday pot roast- see how we give glory to God while we eat it?” We neglect the weightier matters of the law; hell, we think the weightier matters of the law are presuppositional apologetics and Sola Scriptura and icons and baptism. What is true religion? Oh, “true religion” is defined in our statement of faith.

    Ingratitude nothing. Naive nothing. We’re either selling the Gospel for cash, a la “A View of the Woods,” or we’re selling Jesus to most noble Felix for prosperity and “peace.” And if we didn’t have to suffer Felix’s tolerance for those we hate, like queers and abortionists, we’d have those people wholesale slaughtered in the name of reconstructing Moses because we prefer the old wine and hate the fact the new wine burst the skins. We lick at the dirt for that old wine.

    And hey, it’s nothing traditional. There’s Obama bumper stickers in my church parking lot and the Greek archbish didn’t exactly pull a St. Paul last week when he met with the President.

  6. jon said

    The sabbath commandment did say more about giving rest than taking it – more about ensuring that those under you don’t have to work – which is all about justice. But the larger sabbath law also included annual feasts and tithes to buy whatever your heart desired (Deut 14:26).

    As far as selfishness and lack of mercy, I think the “you” in Remy’s original post needs help on precisely those areas. Our Lord invites him to feast, but he grovels about himself instead, disregarding (despite himself) the great mercy that’s been given to him. No wonder he doesn’t show mercy to others when he doesn’t know how to receive it himself.

  7. joshgibbs said

    Jon-

    Don’t we all overplay that little phrase “whatever your heart desires”? Look at the context of that verse, who it goes out to. None of us lives too far from the temple to worship. But also, even if we did, when we have that feast of the things our hearts lust after, we pull people off the streets in for it. We also count ourselves lucky that none of the people in our congregation live on the street.

    By the way: Jon Amos is it? If so then, well, how the hell are you, old friend?

  8. Remy said

    As a side note, the verse on old wine/new wine isn’t saying that we should prefer one over the other. Or if it is, then we should probably prefer the old wine. The verse is telling us to put things in their proper place.

    Now when I say naive I mean that you are looking at the world with two eyes the size of quarters in a world that has close to 7 billion people and the Holy Spirit working on all of them.

    When I say ungrateful I mean that when Christ claims more people than you claim He claims then you are holding a standard that counts you as better than others.

    Christ is willing to put his name on some pretty wretched people and you should not be so quick to rip it off them. I don’t see how this isn’t a complaint against Christ. Or would Christ piddle that away with “Oh, they aren’t really part of my bride’? They have been named Christ, call them to live like it.

  9. joshgibbs said

    Yeah, for some He would say,”They aren’t really part of the Bride. They hate me. They give me lip service, but they don’t do good works.” All our verses and arguments about baptism really need to be complicated by, like, every other verse in the Bible that talks about what we have to do be joined with Christ- and that’s a lot of verses, Jackson.

    We hate the idea that not everyone who calls, “Lord, Lord” really is part of the Bride. We don’t want being part of the Bride to have anything to do with works of mercy and righteousness. The Lord is hungry and we starve him with our Solas. How often does Jesus talk of taking care of people, the poor, the naked, the homeless? How often do our statements of faith talk about the poor?

    The fact that our “statements of faith” are documents should tell us something. Read St. James, for Christ’s sake. What you do is your statement of faith!

  10. Remy said

    I think we’re in agreement, but we come at the problem in different ways and my concern about your method is that it looks (and might very well be) arrogant.

    Let me put it this way: if someone is being a bad husband our response should not be to tell them that he is not a husband. Being a husband is exactly what makes his actions so reprehensible. Rather we should affirm that he is a husband and one that is not living up to his calling.

    And I disagree, we love the idea that not everyone crying “Lord, Lord” is truly a part of the Bride. This is the great thrill of sectarianism and the root of all bloodshed in the history of Christianity.

  11. joshgibbs said

    Rems,

    I hate to say it, but what we’re saying doesn’t look at all alike and I don’t think we’re in agreement. Arrogance (or envy) seems an everpresent charge against anyone who doesn’t want to be all inclusive, so that’s to be expected. But your suspicion of arrogance might be somewhat mitigated in the fact I’m a universalist (maybe, although universalism is frequently charged with arrogance as well. Death to the Other!).

    I don’t know where you get the idea that “sectarianism” is the root of all bloodshed in the history of the Church- as though the English Civil War or the Revolutionary War or the Civil War were about doctrine and beliefs. Those wars were about money and greed. We like to say these wars (or all wars) are about belief and truth. We cry, “They hate our freedoms!” Whatever. Mammon loves to make itself legit through religious and philosophical and patriotic rhetoric. When you clear all the dirt away you find one Christian killed another, one Christian exploited another, some got rich and some got poor and Trinitarian life and suffering and self-sacrifice were rejected.

  12. jon said

    The very same and doing well, thanks! Just had #5, Marley Evangeline. How about you?

    No, I don’t think we overplay that verse, context and all. It’s mercy rich and free, and it informs our understanding of worship and giving in general. If that’s Plan B – an alternative for those who are prevented from regular worship and giving – Plan A must really kick ass.

    I’m not sure I understand your sentence, “We also count ourselves lucky that none of the people in our congregation live on the street.” Are you being serious or sarcastic? Because if we view the world as the Lord’s and our neighborhood as our parish or congregation, it’s not that simple. There are folks in town that do live on the street. What are we doing for them?

  13. joshgibbs said

    Five then! Paula and I have our first scheduled to drop in June.

    I was being sarcastic when I wrote that. I was being critical of the idea of “worthy” and “unworthy” poor, a distinction only ever made during a time of war, want and greed (Westminster, French Enlightenment).

    Jon, would you mind explaining the context of that verse? I don’t at all understand your point.

  14. Remy said

    You’ve lost me. You don’t want to be all inclusive and yet you’re a Universalist?

  15. jon said

    Good, I thought maybe you were being sarcastic.

    Sure, I’ll try again on the context of that verse. As you pointed out, the festival tithe is Plan B for those who live too far from the temple. And I’m saying Plan B tells us something about Plan A. On the surface, Plan B is a feast (seemingly more selfish), while Plan A is worship, sacrifice, giving (self-sacrifice). But they’re connected as two sides of the same coin and should thus inform one another. Plan B should include Plan A’s spirit of self-sacrificial worship & giving, and Plan A should include Plan B’s spirit of festivity. The fact there even is a Plan B is an obvious mercy, but if Plan A is the norm, if it’s to be preferred, if it’s better than Plan B in a sense, then it must not lack anything that Plan B provides – it must be, at heart, equally or even all the more festive. Does that make any more sense?

  16. joshgibbs said

    Indeed, Remy, indeed. It’s fairly common among universalists. Most universalists believe Hell is occupied. Look to Robert “Supper of the Lamb” Capon for help on this. “Parables of the Kingdom.”

    Jon, it comes a bit more into focus. The thing about Plan B is that in involves bringing in the destitute to eat the food your heart lusts after. As long as we’re not fulfilling the easy part and neglecting the hard part, well, then, why not?

  17. jon said

    Josh, you wrote: “As long as we’re not fulfilling the easy part and neglecting the hard part, well, then, why not?” Exactly. Well said.

    I’m not as sure, however, that Plan B necessarily “involves bringing in the destitute to eat the food your heart lusts after,” unless you’re saying the Levites in v27 are the destitute, or unless you’re talking about the triennial tithe (vv28-29). If you’re talking about the triennial tithe, it’s not the same thing as the regular annual or festival tithe (vv22-27). The triennial tithe is specifically for the Levite, alien, orphan and widow – some of whom might be destitute, but not necessarily – what they all have in common is a lack of standing or inheritance, not destitution. But regardless, this tithe is distinct from the annual tithe that could be spent on whatever your (and your Levite’s) heart desired.

    If you’re just talking about the Levite in v27, I wouldn’t say he’s destitute. He was the local priest or musician or teacher or doctor or lawyer. While he had no land inheritance, that didn’t make him destitute – his livelihood just depended on the tithe, not unlike our pastors (or even our city, state, or federal workers whose livelihoods depend on tax dollars).

    Not that we shouldn’t bring in the destitute to share whatever our heart desires – I just don’t think that’s stated in this text. A couple verses later, maybe. The triennial tithe gets closer to the destitute, but again, that’s not the annual whatever-your-heart-desires tithe.

    So while I wholeheartedly embrace the spirit of your point, I don’t see it stated in this law as such, and adding to the law is dangerous business. Equally dangerous, though, is doing the bare minimum required by the letter and ignoring the spirit, and this is where your point is helpful in getting us to think about the spirit/Spirit here as applied to the destitute.

  18. joshgibbs said

    Jon, I was talking about Deut. 14:29.

  19. jon said

    Okay, thanks, Josh. I was hoping I wasn’t forgetting some other passage on this.

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