Friday, November 9, 2018

dehydrated eucharists

My head feeling as dark with last night's wine as Homer's sea, and as desiccated as his bones, I slap my feet repeatedly against the harsh concrete sidewalk. I am in the haze that comes from dehydration [Purple Alert: Missing. Water. Bottle. Feared missing on the 1 train.] and travel with an overloaded suitcase in the rain.

I scroll through Instagram on my flight because it is very easy to let yourself slide into bad habits. I discover an acquaintance runs a Christian motivational Instagram account: my eyes flatten into skeptical lines instantly, and my internal cynic mocks the curly calligraphy photoshopped over images of beaches and trees.

Over a somewhat choppy-looking sea is a quote of Mother Teresa's or some simple statement of a saint that says:

What do you want me to do for you?

And I stop myself mid-sneer, because this small little image of water is doing more to make Christ present than anything I have done today.

And I wonder why I think that I am being more theologically sophisticated or intellectually palatable by talking more about myself than about Christ, when really this small piece of pop theology contains the entire life of sainthood in 2 square inches of digital water.

Why do I turn my nose up at Pinterest Evangelism? There's something very simple and good in it. Perhaps because it is trying to make the Gospel beautiful in a way that is conventional (there is nothing wrong with this I don't think). The Gospel is beautiful—so you must change your life. There's maybe something more radical and less tame and precise in the God who flips tables. Who decided to be born not in a quiet suburb but in a geopolitical war zone.

I was thinking of this again when reading a professor's piece on why discipleship isn't as exciting as youth ministry makes it seem; as in, the Christian life offers a system of meaning, not a series of exuberant emotional experiences. No, of course not, I thought, discipleship is more exciting.

Good gracious, the Christian life—the meaning Christianity offers—is not in any way about disabusing us of our Romantic daydreams or flattening our desires. Christianity does not demand a curtailing of our desire to live on the mountains, rather it proclaims the God we used to seek in high places has pitched his tent among us, here, in the valley, in whatever mundane life we're living. Christianity is about teaching us that whatever ecstatic experiences, overweening desires, and high mountain peaks we seek are present to us in the simplest things, above and beyond our wildest expectations. All our wildest dreams are present, here—if only we have the eyes to see, then yes, each day is constant epiphany.

The Eucharist is not less exciting than an apparition of Jesus, breaking through the clouds with blue and red rays of light streaming from his breast. The Eucharist upends our idea of what thrilling is, because the source of all our life comes to us each day in the very ordinary and mundane bread. The bread does not stop being ordinary bread—to our eyes, ears, tongues, to every sense we possess that is capable of ingesting the world, it is bread. The fact that the bread is God does not make it less ordinary. The Eucharist invites us into the extraordinary by entering more deeply into the ordinary.

The extraordinary does not become anything less than what every single fiber of our being longs for because it comes to us in ordinary, humble forms we do not invent. God is not a gotcha game, who lures us in only to disappoint. God offers saints and sinners the same world—but the saint has learned to see this world from its heart. The saint sees everything the sinner does, but the saint does not just see what she sees—she loves it.

And the world is different when you feel inside yourself the undeniable call to pick up every single part of it, hold it in your arms, close to your breast, and love it into wholeness. It is ordinary. But it is beautiful—dazzling, even.

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