Binding Himself and All of Us Together

The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher

image“It’s Easter Sunday. A group of men are in prison. They are part of the more than ten thousand political prisoners in this country’s jails. They wan to celebrate communion, but they have no wine, no bread, no cup, no priest…”We have no bread, not even water to use as wine,” their leader says to them, “but we will act as though we have.”

Such is the nature of the Lord’s Table in Christian practice. In all conditions, in wealth and in want, practiced with liturgical precision or among small groups, the Bread and the Cup were given as a constant reminder of the presence of Christ with His people until the day He returns. Nora Gallagher surveys the thoughts and emotions of those who serve and receive the elements, giving us a glimpse of the complexity of the Eucharist.

At the heart of her writing is Ms. Gallagher’s thread of our common connection. In each approach to the table she emphasizes how participation in communion serves as a binding force, tying you and I together even when have allowed the intrusion of negative influences to drive us apart. This is a biblical truth that is often dismissed. We may not be on speaking terms with one of our ‘brothers’ or angry with a ‘sister’. The manner is which we structure our lives enables us to avoid those we dislike or are in conflict with, separating the idea of a common inheritance given in the Scriptures, and our practice of daily living. Approaching the table, on the other hand, allows us no shadow in which to hide. Whether it be a common cup or the same loaf from which we pull our piece of bread, we cannot escape the fact of our familial heritage.

Many will find Nora’s overly poetic work attractive. Those of a more analytical bent will struggle to find meaning in personal memories and sudden realizations that Ms. Gallagher utilizes to illustrate her points. This is little practical material in this volume, so those seeking methods or liturgy are directed elsewhere. For one who seeks a contemplative consideration of the practice and effect of the Table, The Sacred Meal will be satisfying.

I am grateful to Thomas Nelson for providing this review copy.

The First Step on a Lifelong Journey

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We all remember it, even if the name escapes us. The ‘abdominator’ or ‘muscleizer’ or something of that nature. It was a wide, flexible belt with electrodes attached to it that you wrapped around your expanding stomach. Turning it on, if you dared, sent electrical signals to your abdominal muscles causing them to dance and jerk, exercising themselves. Through this miracle device, you could remain slouched in your Lazyboy in front of the television with your favorite beverage and, with enough time and twitches, you would emerge with rock-hard abs. All gain, no pain!

Except, it never worked. You were still flabby and thirty dollars poorer.

If you want to get in better physical condition you have to move. You have to get off the couch, put down the soda and chips and take the dog for a walk. There is no magical way to have the physique and health that you want, you have to work for it. Late-night television and the glossy images on the newsstand will attempt to tell you otherwise, but the facts can’t be disputed. A healthy body requires a healthy life.

Christians often labor under a similar misconception. We think that by appearing in church on Sunday, consuming a sermon and then returning to life we will be transformed. We want a faith like the people we hear about in those bible stories, a faith that can carry us through the tough times. Every so often, we even feel a little tug to change the world.

Except, it doesn’t work.

Rather than a trim, powerful, world-changing faith, we have a soft, casual, private religion that affects our lives very little, and the world even less. The faith we want and that we were intended to have doesn’t come through osmosis. It doesn’t mystically appear by listening to sermons or listening to radio programs. It takes work and devotion, and there are no shortcuts.

That’s why you’re here.

The gift of salvation that you have received is much more than a fire insurance policy. It is meant to be transformative in your life so that you, in turn, will be transformative to the world around you. The Spirit within you craves solid food. He does not want to continue to subsist on milk alone, and His urgings will not let you simply ‘be’.

Together, we’re going to begin a renewed journey of spiritual strength training. We’re going to be exploring the variety of spiritual tools and practices that have proven to produce fruit through the centuries. We’ll talk about and create community around it. You and I will praise Him for the growth we see, and He will be pleased at the transformation we bring to the world. We will be what He intended for us to be.

Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  1 Corinthians 9:24-25