“Our tradition of communion is one in which each of us, with our hearts and our individual personalities can come together in a new community. No one is excluded from the table of the Lord. This is the central message of the Eucharist. We are the people of God–and we are immigrants. Think of the joy of going home to the house you grew up in, with the smell of mother’s cooking in the kitchen, the tastes of food, the sounds of family. Here, like your mother’s table, the Lord’s table welcomes you home. Here we are an extended family in the Spirit through communion. You are all members of God’s house.” – Reverend Jesus Reyes, as quoted in Christianity for the Rest of Us by Diana Butler Bass
Last week, we sang a variety of songs at evening worship. The first night, we sang a hymn, one that I remember singing next to my grandma when we visited her church. The voices around me blended as we joined the great cloud of witnesses who have been singing this song and others like it for several generations now. If I closed my eyes, I could hear my grandma’s voice, next to me in the pew.
The theme of this year’s Glen was “Generations in Our Bones” from an essay by T.S. Eliot.
“Tradition is a matter of much wider significance. It cannot be inherited, and if you want it you must obtain it by great labour. It involves, in the first place, the historical sense, which we may call nearly indispensable to anyone who would continue to be a poet beyond his twenty-fifth year; and the historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer and within it the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order.”
(I know you probably didn’t read that. It’s okay. We talked about it last week in terms of “art as tradition.” Got it? Good.)
I felt the generations in my bones last week. As we read the poets, as people shared wisdom they have learned, as feedback was given, as people were stretched, as art was made. Small things reminded me of my own family: a joke that would have been enjoyed by my mother, a song that reminded me of my grandmother, a story my aunt would have liked. The generations that are in my bones are men and women who grounded me and grew me from a solid place. I am different from them. I am different because of them. They have given me the courage to work out my own story.
This grounding has given me confidence that the table of the Eucharist (though we Baptists call it communion) is a home to me. Weekly or quarterly, crackers or bread, wine or juice. I have taken it many different ways in many different places, knowing that I was welcome, knowing that it would be there for me again, like my grandma’s chicken pie. A shared meal that is part of a larger relationship, one that can survive many different seasons. A relationship that changes and grows over time.
Body, blood, bones. An incarnational faith deserves words like these, words we can dwell in, words that welcome us with visceral meaning. These words are saving my life this week. What is saving your life this week?