Communion as “Trans-Participation”
The church staff attended “Pastor’s Day” at the Okoboji Bible Conference yesterday. Good stuff and good company. Many times pastor’s gatherings are rather stuffy and just a bit boring. We had three fabulous speakers. Skye Jethani, senior editor for Leadership Journal began the day with provocative challenges to contemporary ministry. A lot of his comments were push-back from some of the stuff I’ve heard in ministry methodology for the last twenty years. Refreshing. Bob Thune, brother of Sen. John from SD and previously the pastor of Christ Community Church in Omaha, shared his stunning story of being released from his position as lead pastor in a very large church in California. It was sobering but also encouraging as he recounted the affirmation of ministry that he received from many individuals in his church. We never really see what is going on underneath the surface. Occasionally, God allows a peek. We’re probably having more impact than we’ll ever know this side of eternity.
Ross Hastings was the last speaker of the day. He is an associate professor in pastoral theology at Regent College in Vancouver, BC. I pretty much hung on his every word. He speaks my new-found language of the last ten years: missio Dei, metanarrative, Trinitarian theology and the like. The final thrust of his talk was centered on the Lord’s Table. He said that if he were ever to return to local church ministry that he would focus worship on the table rather than the sermon. I agree, but that agenda is too radical for my faith community. He did make a comment that was incredibly profound. It went something like this:
“I don’t care how you view the elements, as transubstantiation (Catholic & Orthodox), consubstantiation (Lutheran), as a memorial (Reformed traditions), real presence (Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Orthodox), or real absence (all the rest…that was funny!), the Lord’s Table is trans-participation.”
I don’t know if he really knew how profound he was. (He probably did.) I’ve studied and taught on the meaning of anamnesis – the Hebrew concept of remembering and I’ve never heard it put in such clever and clear language. Participation with Christ in his complete work of salvation (death, resurrection and ascension) is what biblical rememberance at the Table is all about. It is the mystery that we are invited into union with Christ. Check your New Testament and the theology of St. Paul. Union with Christ is what St. Peter is talking about when he says that we have become “partakers of the divine nature” (II Peter 1:4). I’ve unpacked this idea of biblical remembrance in an earlier blog. ("Remember What?" http://lifenworship.blogspot.com/2010_08_01_archive.html )
“Trans-participation.” Wow! That’s profound.