I started playing the guitar when I was in junior high. In the little town I grew up in, the only folks who played guitar loved both kinds of music: country and western. For several years, I avoided country, bluegrass, and anything similar like the plague. However, I noticed as I started college that many of the songs from these traditions were burned into my brain from my childhood. So, I gave in and started to listen to all the bluegrass and traditional country I could get my hands on. I found that the rich storytelling of much of the music from these traditions really appealed to me. They were home. It wasn’t long before I bought a mandolin and started to learn to play it as well as the guitar. I loved the mandolin and practiced non-stop.
Now, anyone who knows anything about bluegrass music knows that Bill Monroe is the man credited with developing the genre. In addition, he was basically the king of the bluegrass mandolin. I would practice Bill’s techniques and songs for hours and hours. Even watching television, I had a mandolin in my hands. After getting married, my wife came to loathe the mandolin because it was small enough to play in the car as we went on long road trips! During my semi-obsession with this little instrument, I had the strangest dream. I was in the house I grew up in sitting at the kitchen table and on my plate was a human hand that somehow I knew belonged to Bill Monroe. Of course, disgusting and strange as it may sound, I was eating Bill Monroe’s hand. This dream was strange enough to send me to the psychology books about dream analysis, where I found that eating someone in a dream meant you wanted to consume something about them, perhaps their attributes or something else. I interpreted this as meaning I wanted to play like Big Mon so bad that it manifested this way in my dream.
Fast forward five years. I barely touch my mandolin for lack of time, but read something today that triggered this memory. In How (Not) to Speak of God by Peter Rollins, he speaks of consumption, “[Consumption] connotes the act of eating and relates to a way of engaging with someone that seeks to make them into part of our own community (just as eating an animal makes it a part of our own biological structure) (p. 132).” Now, even though this isn’t exactly where Rollins was going, I realized there was a connection between eating Bill Monroe and the Eucharist. We really say that we are partaking of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Now, when I think of my dream, I’m a little repulsed. However, we’ve heard the language of communion so many times, we forget that it is exactly the same thing. We say we’re eating the body and blood of a person. But, we’re doing it for the same reason. We want to engage Christ in such a way that he becomes a literal part of our community, even the biological community that is our body. We want Christ so bad that we literally partake of his flesh and blood. May God grant us the passion to eat that meal and be reformed, reshaped, and reconstituted by that nourishment more than anything else in the world.