Whenever the body of Christ eats together in Eucharist on Sundays, it does so in the hope that it will have its eyes opened to and participate in what God is up to in the world, not only on Sundays but on Wednesdays too. The claim, made by Stanley Hauerwas and others, that living in a deeper awareness of the story of Jesus and of the Church does, in the freedom and grace of God, ‘do’ something is deserving of a hearing. While there is no magical change of status, and while these graces do not turn the gathered people of God into liturgical automatons nor automatically make them more ethically-consistent or mature, the Church’s gospel-shaped practices are, I suggest, the means by which the Head (i.e., Jesus) immerses his Body (i.e., the Church) in the way of ordinary gospel-posture. Specifically, they are means by which Christ trains us. This is true whether we are talking about something like the Church’s calendar, its fasting, or its weekly praying of the Lord’s Prayer, and it is particularly true when it comes to the Lord’s Supper. Every time we come to the Table, which is where the entire Church’s story is enacted in concentrated form, we are offered training in how to live sacramentally in the world, to unearth its idolatries, and to expose what William Stringfellow calls the ‘transience of death’s power in the world’.
Thanks, Jason. Wonderfully put.
I often wonder what might happen if the larger Xian community would take footwashing as one of these sacramental practices, as it has been in my own (Pentecostal) tradition. My PhD supervisor, John Christopher Thomas, has argued—persuasively, in my opinion—that the 4th Gospel means for us to take Jesus’ command to wash one another’s feet with utmost seriousness and that footwashing did have this place of prominence in the ante-Nicene church, both East and West. Perhaps a recovery of this practice would move the church toward visible unity and the healing of the schisms?