Can You Drink the Cup? (Liner Notes: Sunday 10.21)

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We celebrate communion every week at Christ Church. And every week we ask the question: “Who is welcome at God’s table?” The answer is a resounding “All people!” (we got that from our friend, the Rev. Amy Piatt.

Those are two strange things for a lot of us. Many of us did not grow up “taking” communion every week and we certainly did not have an open, inclusive table. Why?

Somewhere along the way church leaders moved away from Jesus’s radical invitation and turned it into a place to fear and work out our sins - instead of a place where we could celebrate a saving way where there was enough food for the journey for all of us.

Drinking the cup is much more than gulping down whatever happens to be in there, just as breaking the bread is much more than tearing a loaf apart. Drinking the cup of life involved holding, lifting, and drinking. It is the full celebration of being human.
— Henri Nouwen

The great Catholic theologian and pastor Henri Nouwen wrestles with similar themes in his potent little book Can You Drink The Cup? Growing up in Holland with a long-family tradition priests, he inherited his uncle’s gold and diamond encrusted fine chalice. It was a precious gift.

But over the years as a national speaker and professor at some of the greatest universities (Yale, Harvard and Notre Dame), Nouwen began to realize that there was something else out there. He quit those high posts and became a chaplain at Daybreak, a resident community for folks with special needs, in Canada.

Reflecting on the inclusive invitation of Jesus, Nouwen began using glass cups to celebrate communion - simple craftsmanship to hold and display simple elements of the earth for all.

When it comes to a life rooted in communion, or Eucharist, Nouwen talks about three ideas: Holding, Lifting, Drinking.

  1. Holding the cup is the invitation to look inward at our own lives in courageous ways. The inner journey is integral to a life well examined and lived.

  2. Lifting the cup is vulnerably raising the cup of all of our lives, sorrows, joys and all. It’s a celebration of this one, precious, integrated and whole life — in community with others.

  3. Drinking the cup is drinking all of it down to the dregs - sorrows and joys together. Embracing our lives as they are and are becoming is the gift of the One who comes to live in deep solidarity with everyone of us.

Just read Philippians 2 and you’ll see Christ as one of solidarity and not shame. So, at Christ Church we invite you to leave behind the old ways of shame and fear around communion and come to the party - a eucharistic (thanksgiving) rhythm of love and life shared, poured out and put back together again for all people, always.