Explaining This Holy Mystery

Yesterday we celebrated Holy Communion, as both of my churches are official members of the communion-once-a-month tribe. At one congregation we had several visitors, which is quite a feat in a small town that has relatively few newcomers.

We had one couple who was very curious about the service and the United Methodist understanding of communion. I want to honor their privacy, so I won’t give too many details, but they were delightful. After the service they wanted to have a conversation about United Methodist beliefs regarding the sacrament.

I’m not sure exactly where their understanding of communion was formed, but it became clear that it is very important to them that the place they worship not hold an understanding of communion that resembles transubstantiation. In fact, if I understood them correctly, they weren’t too fired up about consubstantiation either.

I pointed them to This Holy Mystery and tried to explain my understanding of the real presence of Jesus in the sacrament, worked through a Wesleyan understanding of the various means of grace, and then applauded their concern for sacramental theology. Over and over, they used the word symbolic. In contrast, my buzzphrase was “Christ is truly and really present, but it is a great mystery metaphysically speaking” (OK, I didn’t use the word metaphysically, but I tried to get at that in less philosophical language).

They seem like great folks, and my primary concern was to make sure I didn’t mislead them in any way concerning the United methodist views of the Eucharist while honoring their search for a Church home. Next time I see them, I’ve got two copies of This Holy Mystery workbook by Gayle Carlton Felton that I’m going to give them. Thank God for good resources!

3 thoughts on “Explaining This Holy Mystery

  1. A good friend of mine just noticed the comments were off on this particular post!

    I made this post through a program called BlogDesk instead of the WordPress editor. For whatever reason, when I do that the comments are off until I manually turn them on. I simply forgot to do it. Oops!

    Hopefully we haven’t missed out on a some good conversation here.

  2. How fortunate you are to have folks take seriously the sacrament and want to speak about it. I’m wondering about their aversion to “real presence” theology. I hope they aren’t put off by it when they read THM. John does say that Jesus lost many disciples that day who couldn’t stomach 🙂 his teaching. When that text came up last year in the lec, I titled my sermon “Mystery Meat.” That got some laughs.
    I’ve got a once a month communion crowd too, but as soon as I convert this little storage room off the side of the sanc. into a devotional chapel (which we’ve alotted memorial funds to do) I’m going to have it available every sunday after the regular service, then eventually have it in the service every Sunday. My folks are “little cuppers” who are not so discreet about their revulsion about the shared cup. Perhaps thats a project for year two of appointment?

  3. Wow, perhaps you can house an anchorite (or anchoress, of course) to pray for the Church day and night and provide counsel during the week. Good thinking.

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