Sept. 28, 2017

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Today’s Midweek Message is brought to you by Flavor Blasted Xtra Cheddar Goldfish crackers. That’s what Madelyn was craving in the car after I picked her up from school yesterday.

“That’s strange,” I said to her. “It’s been years since you’ve eaten those things. What in the world made you crave them now?” She couldn’t explain why, so after a few minutes, she asked, “Dad, why do we crave certain foods at certain times?”

I know better now than to fake an answer to a question I know little about. It was tempting to do that when the girls were smaller. (“Oh, that’s easy. A little fairy whispers in your ear and makes you think of that food.”) Instead, I simply admitted, “I don’t know.”

She Googled it on her phone. According to a Psychology Today article, craving foods can stem from “nostalgic eating,” a mental and emotional link one makes between certain foods and positive memories. We remembered together that many years ago when she was in elementary school, I used to give her a handful of Flavor Blasted Xtra Cheddar Goldfish crackers as an after school snack.

“Aw,” I teased. “You’re trying to recapture your childhood. Back to a time when you had much less homework and a lot more play time.” She smiled and rolled her eyes with that “Whatever, Dad” look she often gives me.

NOSTALGIC EATING

Communion is an act of nostalgic eating. When Jesus broke the bread and poured the cup, he was instituting a dynamic remembrance that would continually nourish the church. The Lord’s Supper reminds us of the holiness of God, the saving work of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

But we also remember God’s call for unity in the church, as we pray in our liturgy: “By your Spirit, make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world.”

Forget about Goldfish crackers. What we are really craving today is a sense of unity, both in the church and in the world. Our political and cultural fault lines feel more pronounced than ever, most recently expressed in the dispute over kneeling during the national anthem and the ongoing debate within the United Methodist Church over LGBTQ inclusion. We are a divided country and a divided denomination.

So, it is timely that this Sunday, we will observe World Communion Sunday and our annual Missions Celebration. We will be joined by more than forty mission representatives from around the world that we support through our Ministry and Missions Fund. In each service, we will join with Christians everywhere who are observing World Communion Sunday with us.

At that moment, when you receive the bread and cup, remember that you are uniting with people who may be very different from you.

  • You are receiving communion with people whose hearing of the “Star-Spangled Banner” elicits nationalistic pride, along with people whose deep love for this country’s ideals compels them to desire equality for all people.
  • You are receiving communion with people who honor the sacrifices that guarantee our freedom, along with people who honor those sacrifices by practicing the freedoms they have guaranteed.
  • You are receiving communion with those who desire full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the church, in marriage and in ordination, along with those who desire the upholding of tradition and our covenant with each other.
  • You are receiving communion with United Methodists in Ghana as well as San Francisco, in Mobile as well as Manhattan, in countries, cities, and communities whose citizens encompass the full diversity of race, sexual orientation, and ideology.

But here’s the kicker: when you receive communion, you experience a dynamic nostalgia that recalls God’s desire for all these dichotomies to be proven false, for the sake of our oneness in Christ, with each other, and in ministry to all the world. When you receive communion, you taste unity.

UNITING METHODISTS

It’s why I was so appreciative of Bishop Ken Carter’s words to us last Sunday evening, at the fall regional gathering that we hosted at our church. If you missed it, you can watch his hour-long presentation here. He suggested that we stop thinking about our divisions using the well-worn labels of right, left, and center, and encouraged us to think of it in terms of gifts.

Those on the right offer the gift of covenant, those on the left offer the gift of justice, and those in the center offer the gift of unity. These are complementary gifts, all of which the church should use to advance God’s mission of making disciples for the transformation of the world.

It’s also why I am grateful to be part of a movement called Uniting Methodists, the formal name of the group that met last May in Nashville, which I wrote about in a past¬†Midweek Message. I was privileged to lead a team of gifted writers who developed the theology, mission, and vision statement of the movement, which you can read here.

My desire for unity in the church, and my involvement with the Uniting Methodists movement, is borne from my own personal conviction that it is possible to achieve full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the church, while still honoring our covenantal bonds with each other. 

How is that possible? I can’t say that I know for sure. It certainly seems like a mystery, at least for now. What I know is that God exists as three persons in one, that Jesus lived as two natures in one, and the Holy Spirit turns ordinary communion elements into means of grace. That same God can take all the gifts of the church – covenant, unity, and justice – and find a way for the church to express them fully.

In the meantime, let’s come to the communion table, where all are welcome, and taste unity together.

Grace and Peace,
Magrey
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist

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