Monday, December 3, 2007

Doing in remembrance

In the recent few days I've led a couple of funeral services. The women's ministry of our congregation has done a fantastic job of providing meals following these services. This is not a new experience for me, but there is something different. At these past two funerals the amount of people who've stayed for the meal has been much larger than in my previous experience with funerals. When I served in Tulsa it was usually just the close family that ate together. Here, almost everyone stays and eats together.

At each of these meals I've been intruiged by this process of having this large number of people sharing food while sharing stories about the deceased. During each one a thought has come to my mind: This is what the Eucharist is SUPPOSED to be like!

One of the things I like about the faith tradition I serve in is our regular practice of the Eucharist. It keeps us grounded, centered at the table where we remember Jesus. But maybe sometimes it's not so fresh of an experience for us.

As we partake in the Eucharist we're usually somber, and very quiet. In fact, talking would be frowned upon. But when we do a meal at a funeral we find it necessary and helpful to talk, share, and tell stories. Why do we eat our meal in remembrance of Jesus so differently than the way we eat our meals in remembrance of others? Other than the unique significance of Jesus' death, I don't find many other justifiable reasons. Should we, perhaps, think about the Eucharist a little differently? Wouldn't approaching the Lord's Supper in such a way help us make the memory more real? Wouldn't it make our remembrances of Christ more tangible, more meaningful, and less distant?

I would love to someday have a special worship service where we have a time of telling the story of Jesus' life, then a meal in remembrance of him. We would do the Eucharist the same way we do a meal at a funeral.

Perhaps I'll ponder this a bit more.

On another note, we also recently had someone pass who has very little family. Her relatives are all distant (in relation and geographical proximity). They've elected to not do a service now, and perhaps to do a memorial service at a later date. I'm a bit perplexed. On one hand I need to honor the family's wishes. On the other hand, there are people here with close relationships who need closure, who need to grieve, and who need to remember her in ritual. I think I'll wait a little while and see if the family does anything. If not, we'll go ahead and do a service of some kind for her.

This predicament got me to thinking: What would it be like skipping this important part of the process? We need to remember. We need to think about these things. What would happen if we skip the remembrance of a loved one? It would be a shame. What would happen if we skip the remembrance of Christ in the Eucharist? What would it do to our understanding of our faith?

1 comment:

Danny said...

You have some great observations here; I liked reading about "what eucharist is supposed to be like."

I recently had a member die; it was her wish that no services be held, so of course none were. However, I did talk about her during my sermon the following Sunday, something that was made easier given that how she lived made a very appropriate illustration for the scripture I was already planning to preach on. Afterward, another older member of the congregation thanked me for talking about her during the service--it brought her closure.

Of course, not everyone's life fits so neatly into what the preacher was planning on talking about anyway, but in this particular case, it worked very well. I hope you find some way of doing this for your people.