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The Duty of Constant Communion
The Missional Community as a Means of Grace, Week 4
Andrea Lingle

Whoever you are, wherever you are, and whenever you are will affect how you see the world. We live in a tribal world. We are white and black, gay and straight, male and female, religious and “none,” introvert and extrovert, “in a relationship” or single, coffee or tea, Instagram or Reddit. We are a diverse species and we all fear invisibility, so we draw lines around ourselves. This is me. These are mine. This is what I believe.

In Pastrix, Nadia Bolz-Weber, writes, “the thing that sucks is that every time we draw a line between us and others, Jesus is always on the other side of it. [1]” And as I lean further into my spiritual identity, I would say any time you draw a line, you will find yourself on the other side. It has something to do with what Thomas Merton writes in New Seeds of Contemplation (paraphrased from Chapter 2): if you rely on who you think you are, you lose yourself and you deny the divinity of God [2]. It may sound a bit harsh, but once you decide who you are and what you believe, exactly, then you deny God and the Christ within you.

Which is why living missionally is important. If you pour yourself out for others and allow them to pour into you, who you are, specifically, becomes unimportant. You are important, sacred, created in the Divine image, and, at the same time, nothing. “When God discovers Himself in us...the point of our contact with Him opens out and we pass through the center of our own nothingness and enter into infinite reality, where we awaken as our true self. [3]”

This “center of our own nothingness” is the pool of Prevenient Grace. It is the mystery of baptism. Wesley knew that there was a point of contact with the Divine that simply was. The point where the who of a soul disappears into the sacredness of the Divine. This is the milieu of contemplation. But, entering into a life steeped in contemplation so profound that a soul can withstand acknowledging its “nothingness” is not New Year’s resolution material. In fact, it is a concept so abstract that it would be itself nothingness if it weren’t for this: “to many, the cloud of their contemplation becomes identified in a secret way with the Divinity of Christ and also with His Heart’s love for us, so that their contemplation itself becomes the presence of Christ, and they are absorbed in a suave and pure communion with Christ. And this tranquillity is learned most of all in Eucharistic Communion. [4]”

There it is. We were created for potluck suppers.

I jest only in part. Specifically, the canned english pea part. Jesus knew we needed something to do. Humans are flesh and bone and do. So he tied the mystery of grace to a universal need: food.

Jesus gathered his disciples around a table, gave them food, and said, “Eat together, and, when you do, remember me.” John Wesley taught, in his sermon “The Duty of Constant Communion,” that, “As our bodies are strengthened by bread and wine, so are our souls by these tokens of the body and blood of Christ.” The heart of new monasticism is relationships: actual flesh and blood community where people know one another, share life, and reach out together to their neighbors [5]. It is my conclusion that our primary duty in missional living is to eat together, and in doing so, we will find the other in ourselves and ourselves in the other.

Even though we are surrounded by the divisiveness of our sand-drawn lines, everybody eats. When we eat together, we become equal through our common need; our common vulnerability.

Food, along with breathing, is the body’s mandate, and Jesus made it our spiritual mandate. 

Get thee to a table and eat with the other, daily.

Invitation to Missional Mindfulness:

  • Who can you invite to the table?

  • What invitation have you been avoiding accepting?

  • What part does eucharist play in your life?

  • How does Jesus’s instruction to eat in remembrance of him change our table habits?

[1] Nadia Boltz-Weber, Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint (New York: Jericho Books, 2013).
[2] Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, (New York: New Directions Books, 2007).
[3] Merton, New Seeds, p.40.
[4] Merton, New Seeds, p. 276.
[5] Elaine A. Heath and Scott T. Kisker, Longing for Spring: A New Vision for Wesleyan Community (Eugene, OR, Cascade Books, 2010).