The Eucharist is Scary

In a provocative essay “The Church’s One Foundation Is Jesus Christ Her Lord; Or, In A World Without Foundations: All We Have Is the Church” [in Theology Without Foundations: Religious Practice & the Future of Theological Truth, ed. Stanley Hauerwas, Nancey Murphey, & Mark Nation (Nashville: Abingon Press, 1994), pp. 143-162], Methodist theologian Stanley Hauerwaus writes of the profoundly fleshly and material nature of Christianity:

That unity God creates by making us the body of Christ is most vividly present in Eucharist. Through that bread and wine, which is the body and blood of Christ, we become God’s body. Such presence is made known because our savior is no dead hero, but the resurrected Lord. Resurrection does not mean Jesus, after laying a few insights and ideals on us, took a flier, leaving us alone to deal with this mess. Resurrection means that when the words are said–this is my body, this is my blood, pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts–there is nothing we can do to prevent God from being present.

It is frightening is it not? As Jacob says [at Bethel], “Surely the Lord is in this place–and I did not know it.” And then we are told: “And he was afraid.” I do not blame him in the slightest. God is frightening. Indeed I sometimes think the reason that Protestants, and in particular Methodists, are more likely to believe in the “real absence” rather than the “real presence” is that God just scares the hell out of us–and for good reason if God just is this God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus. (pp. 148-149)

As Hauerwas has it, it is because God “just scares the hell out of us” and stubbornly maintains a “refusal to be ’spiritualized” that we do not, as Protestants, often celebrate the Eucharist. And this is a symptom of our deep gnosticism. At bottom, Christianity is too fleshly for our elevated, pure, “spiritual” desires.

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