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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Table Fellowship and the Failure of Sacrifice

On reading a great book by S. Mark Heim, Saved From Sacrifice: a theology of the cross, (Eerdmanns, 2006) I was struck by his idea that Christians no longer use sacrifice to form community. According to Heim, Holy Communion (eucharist, the Lord's Supper, et al.) is not a reenactment of Christ's final meal, and therefore not also a version of the supper as a sacrifice. Rather, he argues, Christians no longer use sacrifice (since Christ made sacrifice useless for Christians with his resurrection), but rather seek other ways to bind themselves together rather than scapegoating a victim (the purpose of sacrifice is to bind together a community by scapegoating someone so the rest of us can feel good about ourselves and our community.)

Although he has no way of knowing this (I don't believe I have ever met him, but my memory fades on things like this...) Prairie Table gathers together around Holy Communion, but as "community" not as sacrifice. In other words, our table fellowship is in honor of our relationship we have to God through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, and we believe God is creating that community, not only when we celebrate the eucharist, but when we gather together to sing, pray, or talk too. By virute of making and gathering community through celebrating the relationship we share with the Triune God, and not through the sacrifice of God for us, we have become one of those communities whom Heim says are "saved from sacrifice." That is, we do not need to sacrifice ourselves in order to have a relationship with God.

This is huge for many reasons, and those who see Jesus' action on the cross primarily as a sacrifice for human sin, will have huge problems with this idea. But at Prairie Table we came to this position not from theologically parsing atonement theory (what we are talking about here), but from the simple human craving and desire to connect with others and God around a meal...namely, the meal God invites to at the Lord's table. (At Prairie Table we do not have an "altar," needless to say, because we have nothing to sacrifice on it.)

Maybe in two thousand years this idea may take hold on the "regular" Christian imagination, but for now we at Prairie Table are keenly aware that we are bound together, not by the blood of God, but by the love of God, a God who loves us so much that he bleeds...and it is the loving, not the bleeding, not the sacrificing that saves us...

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