Christ's body recycled for you (Beth Keith)

Monday, 7 September, 2009

Beth KeithBeth Keith explores a recycled communion.

At Greenbelt I was invited onto a panel discussion about the sacraments, the role of the priest and the emerging church with Pete Rollins, Kester Brewin, Paula Gooder and Father Simon Rundell. In our discussions, one element that developed was the tension held within the sacraments of Eucharist and baptism to consecrate or desecrate. Do we remember Christ honestly if these sacraments are beautified or sanitised, or does a more honest remembrance necessitate an embrace of horror, dirt and abandonment? In recent years, we have heard of Ikon and Vaux's critique of communion, employing vivid imagery of the horror of Christ's death and how a beautified ritual removes us from the horror of the passion narrative. Does this go too far, or have they helped us to connect with the realness of those events?

I've had a few days to process the discussion and wonder if when we get talking about whole/broken or clean/dirty, we become opposing sides of the same axis. In the act of baptism or Eucharist, Christ calls us something new, so portrayals of these sacraments as consecration or desecration point to Christ only to the extent to which they embody a reimagination of what is broken/whole or clean/dirty.

Greenbelt 2009 discussionA few months ago I was part of a communion event which drew on the recycling mantra: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle. In looking at Reuse, the group questioned what is waste, what do we consider waste which can be reused, and made connections between our judgements of 'who is acceptable' and 'who is waste' against Jesus' acceptance of all. In looking at Reduce, we looked at how our consumption affects others and used this as part of our confession. And then at the breaking of bread looked at how Christ's body was Recycled.

Perhaps engaging with the dirtiness of the sacraments helps us to connect to the deeper gospel message, but if we stop there do we miss the opportunity to reimagine dirt and waste? Recycling has transformed the notion of waste in our society; perhaps this imagery can help to understand Christ's actions.

About the author: 

Beth works at The Sheffield Centre and supports learning networks as part of the Fresh Expressions team. She is also involved in ReSource, running weekends for pioneers creating church in emerging culture.

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