Embracing the Passion (The Unofficial Guide to The Passion of the Christ)

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UCC: Faith and life in conversation

See next articles. Newsletter Sign Up Continue reading the main story Please verify you're not a robot by clicking the box. Invalid email address. Please re-enter. You must select a newsletter to subscribe to. Sign Up. You will receive emails containing news content , updates and promotions from The New York Times. You may opt-out at any time. You agree to receive occasional updates and special offers for The New York Times's products and services. Thank you for subscribing. Christ's presence is real in this sacrament, but the manner and means of that presence may remain mysteries to us forever.

The ways in which Christ is present at this meal are not mysteries in the same way that a magician's pulling a rabbit out of a hat is mysterious. If we were to examine a magician's hat and insist that he repeat the act again without his cape, then we might very well understand how the feat was accomplished. But the mystery that is present at Christ's table is forever beyond the reach of explanation.

It is more like the mystery of love. Where does it come from?


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How is it sustained? How does it sustain us?

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We will never fully know, but the power is no less real because of our inability to explain it. It is nothing less than the mystery and the power of Jesus made real and made available to us. In our cerebral approach to religion, we often assume that the most important religious truths can always be reduced to words. But just as an art critic once observed about great art, the part of the sacrament that really matters is the part that will forever remain beyond the reach of explanation. Sacraments are important, in part, because they take us where words cannot go. There are times when we can be particularly grateful that the presence of Christ is not something that can be grasped only by the intellect, that such a presence can be experienced by other means.

A woman suffering from dementia who cannot hold a point in a sermon long enough for it to make any real difference can still hold the cup of blessing to her lips and receive the presence of Christ. A child for whom theological explanations are about as incomprehensible as molecular biology can still receive the blessings of this table. Occasionally, I will hear someone say that children should not receive communion until they fully understand what it means. When I hear that I always think, "At what age is that?

Who can claim to fully understand all that the sacrament means. John Calvin, after a long dissertation on the sacrament, summarized his understanding of Christ's presence in the Lord's Supper by saying, "I would rather experience it than understand it.


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  • And to a startling degree, children know how to experience the sacrament. At an intergenerational worship service in our church, we have communion every Sunday and the children are always the first ones to the table, eager for the gifts of bread and cup. They somehow know that this is both a simple meal and, at the same time, something special, set apart, holy even.

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    Children somehow "get it. And who wouldn't rather experience communion fully than to understand it fully? How is Christ present in this meal? We cannot fully know. Such close love is always a mystery.

    But his presence is no less real for all of our inability to explain it. What we can do is seek the mysterious blessings of the table and receive the palpable gifts of a palpable God.

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    Let us pray. O God, let us be patient with all that is still mysterious and beyond the reach of our limited minds.

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    In his sermon on Jeremiah ,, the Rev. Over the past year, Chicago has been wracked by economic uncertainty and gun violence, especially among young people. Moss and other religious leaders have been leading peace circles, which encourage intense dialogue between groups at odds with each other.

    We make it when we talk about the Lord is my shepherd. She cites the traditional Christian belief that Jesus came to reconcile God and human beings. Hope was born in with a rare metabolic disorder called Zellweger Syndrome. Hope lived just over six months.

    Knowing they carried the risk for the disease, David underwent a vasectomy. And about a year and a half after our daughter Hope died, I gave birth to a son named Gabriel. And Gabriel, too, was with us just a short six months, like his sister Hope.

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