Daily Devotional for Small Group Discussion: Communion’s Politics
- How did the story of the hungry people in Northeast Brazil affect you? Can you imagine being ashamed to eat in public for fear someone will see your hunger and need?
- The teachers of the early church—like John Chrysostom, whose Sermon on Matthew is quoted above—spoke often and urgently about Communion’s connections to the poor and hungry. You can’t eat and drink at the Lord’s table, they taught, and not find yourself feeding others and challenging the injustice that keeps people poor. Do you ever think of Communion this way?
- Some congregations have feeding ministries tied to the meaning and practice of Holy Communion. Do you know of any?
- Some theologians think we could deepen our awareness of the connection between Communion and justice for the hungry if we restored the “mealness” of the Meal. What do you think they mean by this, and do you think it could help?
“Do you want to honor Christ’s body? Then do not honor him in church while neglecting him outside where he is cold and naked. For he who said: ‘This is my body,’ also said: ‘You saw me hungry and did not feed me…’” – St. John Chrysostom (347-407)
I once read that the hungry poor of the Brazilian Northeast avoid eating in front of others. It shames them to display the bottomless pit of their need in public. For them, eating is private, like sex and defecation.
Think about that: hungry people always eating the little they have out of sight, their world reduced, their lives shrunk. It’s atomizing. It makes social solidarity impossible.
Now think about Communion: a Table where everyone may come and eat equally in full view of the world, the very picture of social solidarity.
In a world constructed to starve many so that a few can overeat, a world designed to destroy human bonds, to atomize by shame, Communion is a political manifesto. Listen to our scriptures:
Paul denounces the Corinthians for excluding the hungry poor from the Supper. To eat the Meal but offer no communal response to hunger nullifies Holy Communion. And human communion.
Mary’s “Magnificat” announces that in God’s world the rich relinquish their advantages and the poor are well fed. The Table is the reverse image of the world’s economics.
Jesus teaches his disciples to ask, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Not me and my bread, but us and ours. Concern for others’ bread gives us our marching orders.
For centuries, we Christians have argued over what happens when someone says holy words over bread and wine. But while people are starving, we might better ask what could happen if we’d raise Communion’s ethical fist to ensure they’re fed.
Communion by Communion, transform us into a body that does in the world what we do at the Table.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.