In The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher, Gallagher provides a basic summary of the spiritual discipline of the Lord’s Supper.  She approaches this discipline by giving what she considers to be the three stages of the act (waiting, receiving, and afterward), and then addressing various issues surrounding the Eucharist (myths, traditions, history, etc).  More than anything, this book acts as a memoir–a first hand account of someone who’s life is deeply engaged in this discipline and who has been significantly impacted by it.  Gallagher fills the pages of this volume with beautiful stories about Communion experiences from her life that inspire the reader to take part in this moving exercise.  Her book is more of an invitation than an exposition or description.  She is inviting everyone to the table–to experience the transformation that comes from this mysterious act that has been such an integral aspect of the history of the church.

The book is filled with interesting nuggets that are worth contemplating.  Here is a sample of those:

“Hidden in repetition is the chance that on any given day, the mind or soul will connect with what is waiting to connect to us.” (p. xix)

“He said these things to himself because he understood that choosing the vulnerable path was the way to keep his soul alive, and protected, from the harsh realities of power.” (p. 20)

“Too much focus on personal sin, and especially sin having to do with sex (while many church leaders got away with serious sexual misconduct and abuse) without any mention of how we participate in larger, more systemic evil, has left the word sin almost empty of meaning.” (p. 30)

“By making our greatest and most important goal the one of productivity, we miss out on the ways that God’s gifts of grace comes to us by doing nothing. (p. 41)

“At the altar, we are invited into what Jesus called heaven.” (p. 48)

“Part of ‘afterward’ is letting an experience of the holy seep into your cells so that even when your brain decides it didn’t happen or you made it up, you have a cellular memory.” (p. 56)

“My theology couldn’t explain the chaos.  I need the sacrament.” (p. 65)

“They are concrete things that stand in for something invisible and mute, recognized by human minds as avenues into the sacred.” (p. 84)

“Jesus practiced a radical faith: everyone was welcome at his table.” (p. 92)

“It’s more accurate to say [the Lord’s Supper’s] roots are in the various meals that Jesus shared with is followers and others throughout his life.” (p. 101)

Gallagher addresses many different topics and spends time discussing many different tangents to the Lord’s Supper.  She spends several pages discussing a correct understanding of the Kingdom of God, working towards a better definition of sin, and the  larger Christian narrative.  This strength of the book is also a weakness.  It is a strength because it broadens the reader’s understanding of the Lord’s Supper into a multi-faceted act designed to embody the broader purposes of Christianity.  It is a weakness, though, because the connection to the Lord’s Supper is not at all times clear, and in some situations requires skimming back through the pages to see how the thought-flow has developed.  Similarly, the chapters sometimes end abruptly without a clear conclusion of ideas.  This was frustrating at times, but is an interesting literary style that effectively makes the book more like a mental conversation with Gallagher than a persuasive argument for a particular belief about Eucharist or a strong appeal to partake.  Gallagher brilliantly explores the spiritual impact the sacred meal has had on her soul and extends this into a non-threatening invitation to partake of the feast of our Lord.


As one begins to understand the political aspect of the message of the Kingdom of God, you realize that faith in Jesus calls many societal assumptions into question. This is the essence of Paul’s phrase “Jesus is Lord.” In this statement Paul is claiming that Jesus is ruling this world instead of Caesar (since it is meant to subvert Caesar’s self appointed title of Lord of Earth and Sea).

Paul’s letters beg Christians to distrust Caesar’s imperial gospel and trust instead in the gospel of the Kingdom of God where the first is made last and the weak are made strong.

Fast-forward to today…

In America, we are fed the gospel of the American Dream. “Work hard and play by the rules and things will work out.” “America is a place where dreams come true–where any man can pull himself up by his own bootstraps.” American residents (and the rest of the world) are bombarded with the framing story of the gospel of the American Dream that bows down to the “movers” of the world like Henry Ford and Steve Jobs.

So many Christians have embraced this framing story that is so opposed to the first century Jewish man named Jesus.

Many of us struggle with a Christianity within which we have the same values and faith in human political systems as everyone else, we are merely more morally pure (no drinking, smoking, or sex). So, we still embrace selfishness, judgmentalism, classism, and various other side effects of the American Dream and then go to Church on Sunday.

It is a challenge for everyone that puts their face in Jesus of Nazareth to reorder our values around the Kingdom of God. We must question our framing story to see whether we get our attitudes and societal assumptions from the biblical story or from our nation’s forefathers. Is the way we conduct our personal business designed to capitalize on the weak, or is it designed to bring justice, joy, and peace to the world?

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Almost every religious portrayal of Jesus I see has nothing to do with the historical Jesus at all.  Is that ok?

I hear about “my saviour” who is “always there for me.”  I hear about “my Jesus” who I “know thou are mine.”  It sounds like a good friend who always has my back, or whatever.

Is this a biblical understanding of the personal presence of Jesus the Christ?  Regardless of this, I can’t think of one religious song that seriously embraces the traveling Jewish peasant named Jesus.  I can’t think of one song that embraces Jesus’ unique vocation to rescue the Jewish people.  “He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’

Perhaps an ultra-personalized version of being a Christian and disciple of Jesus has overshadowed the real Jesus.  And maybe this creates cultural “Christians” who see a Jesus that looks like them, talks like them, and already does what they do.  And maybe WWJD really means what would the “ideal ME” do.

What to do with theology and fitness?

I have recently turned into somewhat of a health/fitness fanatic.  I’ve started crossfitting and following the zone diet.  I have been getting stronger and healthier and I love it.

So recently I’ve been thinking about what the connection between health and spirituality is.  Platonic dualism has influenced many things–arguing for a divorce between the physical (as evil) and the non-physical (as good).  As I struggle to move beyond thinking in Platonic terms into a more biblical view of creation as tov miod (very good), it makes me wonder if a connection exists.

My first reaction is to think in terms of the importance of the body.  The body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19) and it will remain, albeit transformed, in the new heavens and new earth (1 Cor. 15).  So is there somewhat of a parallel?

If we are called to be stewards over the creation and to live as if we are already in the new age when it comes to preserving the environment, would that imply that we should be equally passionate about being good stewards of our own body?

I don’t know the answer yet, but I’m trying to think it through.

A good friend of mine just started a blog called “cycle.”  It will follow the daily lectionary.

I’m excited about the resource and I think you should be too.

The lectionary is a list of readings that tells the entire biblical story every day.  Each Sunday there is a weekly liturgical reading.  These four passages (Old Testament, Psalms, Gospels, Epistles), which move through the life of Jesus each calendar year,  are recited in millions of churches worldwide every Sunday.

Relatively few Protestants know about the liturgy because it was considered too Catholic (along with the Eucharist among other things) and was thus rejected.  It is an amazing way to let the biblical story “marinate” a Christian as you meditate on the biblical story on a daily basis within the network of all Christians who are reading the same passages with you each day.

I ran across this concept when reading about how to become a better writer.  They suggested that in order to become a better writer that it needed to become a habit.

Often we think about breaking bad habits.  Rather than thinking only about bad habits, creating good habits is an excellent way of developing into the person that we want to become.

Want to become a better writer?  Schedule an hour a day to write an article, blog post, or chapter to a book.

Want to be more familiar with current issues?  Subscribe to a magazine and spend 30 minutes or an hour a day reading about current issues on the internet.

Want to be a better speaker?  Spend an hour a day listening to speakers you respect or reading good literature.

Want to be in better shape?  Commit to exercising an hour a day.

If you are serious about taking definite steps towards improving some aspect of your person, make a habit of it.  If it sounds unexciting to make it a habit, maybe it’s not really who you want to be or are meant to be.  If spending an hour a day doing what it takes to improve sounds exciting, then what are you waiting for?