Rob Bell and Don Golden on eucharist and the new humanity
Bell and Golden use “eucharist” in a kind of idiosyncratic way, but it makes sense on its own terms. They write:
In the new humanity, them becomes us, they becomes we, and those become ours. This is why it is very dangerous when a church becomes known for being hip, cool, and trendy. The new humanity is not a trend. Or when a church is known for attracting one particular kind of demographic, like people of this particular age and education level, or that particular social class or personality type. There’s obviously nothing wrong with the powerful bonds that are shared when you meet up with your own tribe, and hear things in a language you understand, and cultural references are made that you are familiar with, but when sameness takes over, when everybody shares the same story, when there is no listening to other perspectives, no stretching and expanding and opening up – that’s when the new humanity is in trouble.
The beautiful thing is to join with a church that has gathered and find yourself looking around thinking, “What could this group of people possibly have in common?” The answer, of course, would be the new humanity. A church is where the two people groups with blue hair – young men and older women – sit together and somehow it all fits together in a Eucharistic sort of way. Try marketing that. Try branding that. The new humanity defies trends and demographics and the latest market research.
In Acts 8 some of Jesus’ first followers are healing people, and a man named Simon sees this and offers them money and says, “Give me also this ability.” Simon is seduced into thinking that the movement of the Spirit of God is a commodity to be bought and sold like any other product. The apostles chastise him for his destructive thinking, because … the Eucharist is not a product.
Glossy brochures have the potential to do great harm to the body and blood. Church is people. The Eucharist is people. People who have committed themselves to being a certain way in the world. To try to brand that is to risk commodifying something intimate, sacred, and holy.
A church is not a center for religious goods and services, where people pay a fee and receive a product in return. A church is not an organization that surveys its demographic to find out what the market is demanding at this particular moment and then adjusts its strategy to meet that consumer niche.
The way of Jesus is the path of descent. It’s about our death. It’s our willingness to join the world in its suffering, it’s our participation in the new humanity, it’s our weakness calling out to others in their weakness. To turn that into a product blasphemes the Eucharist.
The Eucharist is what happens when the question is asked, What does it look like for us to be a Eucharist for these people, here and now? What does it look like for us to break ourselves open and pour ourselves out for the healing of these people in this time in this place? The temptation is simply to duplicate the Eucharist of someone else.