A Community View of the Lord’s Supper (part 8)

The Spirit not only calls people into unity. In the recognition and celebration of the calling of many into one Church on account of the work of Christ, it is also vital that the diversity which the Spirit brings also be celebrated. Moltmann writes, “The Trinitarian concept of community envisages diversity in unity from the very outset”, opening up “individual potentialities in the greatest given diversity.” The table fellowship not only does not demand conformity, it fights against it, for the Spirit who constitutes it relates in a different, though equally vital, way in each individual present.

It is the diversity which brings a heightened unity, for the unity is not based on sameness, but rather it is based on the divine intermingling of varied individuals whose being compliments and enriches every other individual so that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. This is not a conglomeration of pieces, being much more complex due to the work of the Spirit in the community. Because we share the same Spirit, our uniqueness is shared with others, as we receive their uniqueness into ourselves. Miroslav Volf writes that it is “the indwelling of the Spirit common to everyone that makes the church into a communion corresponding to the Trinity, a communion in which personhood and sociality are equiprimal.”

This awareness of the diversity within the unity is not limited to an awareness of different individuals for their own sake. A full awareness of this diversity which is highlighted in the communion fellowship includes an understanding of the diversity of gifts and passions which are also a work of the continual presence of the Spirit in and through all believers. These gifts and passions are essential for the full carrying out of the mission of the church. The Spirit prompts, provides, and provokes those within the church to be involved in the work of the Spirit throughout the world, granting those specific gifts which are needed in order to facilitate this participation. In doing this the Spirit enables the entire congregation to be an active part of the ministry of the Church.

In the Lord’s Supper there is the recognition of the equality of all members, prompting all to “recognize the body”, leading to an ever greater awareness of how the Spirit is leading the community as a whole. Each person provides an essential nuance, without which the community will be less than fully engaged in the work of the Spirit. “Every believer,” writes Hans Kung, “can and must, having been taught by God, teach others; can and must, having received the word of God, be its herald in some form or another.” The Lord’s Supper celebrates the equality of the believers, taking as reality the understanding of the “priesthood of all believers”, re-emphasizing the polycentric community in which all people are able and required to be ministers in their own unique regard. To not recognize this polycentric aspect is to lose sight of the One who calls and leads all believers into the One body of Christ, giving each an essential function which is united, yet diverse.

The celebration of the Lord’s supper then is the celebration of this unique relationship, it is the awareness of how the Spirit of God has worked in the lives of each person, all who have a different relationship with God, and thus have a unique perspective which the Spirit has brought into the Church. For this reason the celebration of communion is in many ways like the Year of Jubilee, in which inequalities are rectified, and the community is, if even for a moment, stricken of any structures which would indicate some being valued over others. All have been called by the Spirit in diverse, though fully equal, ways, bringing a unity which transcends simple agreement and which is united in the past, present and future work of Christ as mediated in our midst by the Spirit of God.

Any structure or form which would cause disunity or devaluing of any individual strikes against the Spirit who establishes the community as it is. Rather than being a time to discuss who cannot participate, this fellowship is the chance to open our eyes to see who is participating, celebrating with joy and thanksgiving the wonderful ways in which the Spirit is moving in our midst, joining in with rather than limiting the work of the Spirit in this world. As a feast to celebrate the work of Christ, as a unified and diverse community, the Lord’s supper is a profoundly event of the Holy Spirit which reminds us as often as we celebrate it the full work of the Triune God in bringing restoration and transformation to this entire world.

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