Friday, June 29, 2007
Hierarchy+Communion = Incompatability
Update 7/1/07 I was reminded (convicted!) this morning that 1 Corinthians 10:31 says it best: So then, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to honor God. (The Source NT)
Are we applying this in our lives? Mea culpa, as well.
One of my favorite blogs has been engaged in a dialogue, or a "communion of ideas" and I got a hand-slappin' over there, so thought I would finish my thoughts here. And, since my thoughts might contain the word "hierarchical," I'd best remain here, since that word apparently causes some sort of reaction in one of the commentators. ;-)
My contention is that communion within a hierarchical environment can never fully be the communion that Jesus desired for us in the NT. Paul did a little hand-slappin' himself when the Corinthians got out of line at the communion table. And, I think, a TABLE it was. The early church was not just a large gathering, it was small groups in homes. I wish the church dinners that occur today would be the communing that Jesus sought at that last supper. I wish these dinners would be done in remembrance of Him, however, in my experience the church dinner happens, then, later in the service, "communion" happens.
Koinonia has been translated to mean "communion." It also has been translated as fellowship. A translation that is closer to the NT times has utilized the word as "partnership"- - even to mean a business partnership. Either way, none of those words, including communion, are compatible with the word "hierarchy" which implies that someone is above the others, somehow superior in his (yes, usually male) station in life and holy matters, and that only they are qualified to lead the sharing.
The only qualified leader that belongs in the celebration of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is Jesus Himself. The most meaningful sharing in which I've taken part has been gatherings (lunch, dinner. . .even coffee!) where anyone (sometimes the homeowner) serves (not administers) the sacraments, or speaks from their heart; real dialogue takes place, and there is no "Head of the Table" other than Jesus Himself. I have experienced some intimate communions within smaller churches where anyone could serve the sacraments, and there was a genuine "eye to eye" meeting, greeting, and a feeling of togetherness and reverence.
I'm including some interesting information that I came across while formulating my thoughts. I long for the true communion that occurred in earlier centuries; where people shared, cared, got fired up, and just loved their Savior and remembered, with true reverence, what He did. The ritual communion of today is a culture-devised entity that bears little to no resemblance to the original.
Here is an excerpt from an article by James E. Biechler, the whole of which pretty much sums up my thoughts. I believe that Dr. Biechler is a Catholic, and part of the ARCC's team (Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church). I visited their amazing website. (Full article: Rights 8: Church as Hierarchy or Communion )
Church as Hierarchy or Communion
By James E. Biechler
As a Catholic, the main problem I have with the ARCC Charter of Rights is its underlying assumption that lay people in the Church are equal to the clergy. My understanding is that Christ established the Church as a hierarchical society. Doesn't that mean that the clergy are superior to the laity? (Superior!?!)
--W.L.B., St. Charles, MO
The Code of Canon Law states: "In virtue of their rebirth in Christ there exists among all the Christian faithful a true equality with regard to dignity and the activity whereby all cooperate in the building up of the Body of Christ in accord with each one's own condition and function" (Canon 208). ARCC's Charter of Rights is in perfect accord with this canon and goes further in spelling out its implications. ARCC's Charter is based more on the teachings of the Second Vatican Council than upon the Code of Canon Law. A good case could be made for the fact that the Code is not always in agreement with the teachings of Vatican II. A significant number of theologians and canonists have commented on the retreat from Vatican II which the Code "canonized."
Few New Testament scholars today would agree that Jesus "founded" a "hierarchical" church. The distinction between "clergy" and "laity" was surely unknown to Jesus. One thing upon which there is growing agreement among scripture scholars is that Jesus was an egalitarian, a man who actually disregarded the social and religious obstacles to interpersonal equality. He associated with riffraff, ate with sinners and the socially unclean, accepted women and took them seriously even when they wanted to discuss theology. He practised open commensality in a society which placed great importance on discrimination at table.
Some more links that say it better than I:
http://www.the-highway.com/eucharist_Webster.html (The Eucharist by William Webster)
http://www.crbc.co.uk/sermons2005/may22.html (The Community and Commitment of the Early Christian Church)