Monday, November 5, 2012

There is One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism

The Reverend Mark Schloneger is a Mennonite Pastor in Indiana.  The Mennonites come out of the Anabaptist movement of the 16th century and like their theological siblings, the Amish, have a strong theology of what they believe should be the proper relationship of a Christian with the State.  Mennonites are committed to pacifism and insist that any loyalty to earthly government comes only after our total commitment to Jesus and his Gospel. 
I did an entry several days ago about Joseph and Michael Hofer, two Hutterite men who were arrested and died in prison during World War I rather than compromise their beliefs. Hutterites are also a part of the Mennonite family of Anabaptist Christians and demand that our first and only true allegiance must be to Christ and his Gospel.  Pastor Schloneger and several other Christian clergy came up with the idea of Election Day Communion as a way to remind Christians that Christ must shape our entire lives and that our politics need to flow from our commitment to the Gospel.  Sharing Holy Communion on this day is also a vivid reminder that while we may have differences in politics, we must maintain our unity in Christ first and foremost.   Pastor Schloneger’s idea of Election Day Communion is a good one.  For us Catholics, of course, we are used to the availability of Mass and Communion each day but that is not the case for almost all other Christians.  Even Greek and Russian Orthodox usually only celebrate on Sundays and maybe twice more during the week.   Episcopalians and Lutherans as well as Churches in the Campbellite tradition—Churches of Christ and Disciples of Christ—almost always celebrate Holy Communion every Sunday but rarely during the week.  Most Protestants share Holy Communion only monthly or even quarterly so for a special Communion to  be shared on election day is a powerful reminder that we are called to be One Body in Christ’s One Body and One Fellowship in His Blood.
Let me reprint the internet article to which I was directed for more information.   You can find it for yourself on the CNN Belief Blog.

It seems frivolous, even foolish.
On Tuesday, as the world turns its attention to who will occupy the most powerful office of the world’s most powerful nation, hundreds of churches will gather across the United States to worship a servant. As votes are counted to elect a president, thousands of Christians will take the bread and the cup to remember their crucified Lord. As winners are projected and the electoral map is updated, Christians of many denominations will sing their praises and proclaim their loyalty to Jesus.  It seems ridiculous, even silly. After all, America is at a crossroads, and we are in the midst of one of the most critical presidential elections of our lifetimes. We know this because people have recited this same tired mantra before every presidential election.
Our fears, our hopes, our worries and our struggles are the currency that buys our votes. And how do politicians and their supporters acquire this precious currency? They invest billions of dollars to foment fear, inspire hope, create worry and exploit our struggles. It’s a power play. Some of us are pawns, and some of us are participants. But some of us are choosing a different part.
I initiated the Election Day Communion Campaign out of a concern that Christians in the United States are being shaped more by the tactics and ideologies of political parties than by our identity and unity in Christ. Out of this concern, a simple vision sparked the imaginations of congregations nationwide: the church being the church on Election Day, gathering at the Lord’s Table to remember, to give thanks for, and to proclaim its loyalty to Jesus. Gathering for Communion on Election Day seems fitting, for the practice of Communion is an inherently political act. It is both a pledge of allegiance to Jesus and a declaration of independence from all other powers making claims on our bodies, minds and souls.
Far too often, the church has abandoned its first love for the siren song of political parties promising protection, prosperity and peace. Far too many times, the church has ceded the practice of its faith to the spiritual and the private while leaving others to address matters of justice. And far too frequently, the church has attempted to speak truth to power while seeking and relying on that same power for protection. The bread and the cup are God’s antidotes to our fickle memories. As we eat and drink together, we remember that all things fall under the lordship of Christ. We remember our sin and need to repent. We remember that God has lifted up the humble, filled the hungry with good things, and chosen to reveal God’s strength through our weakness.  We remember that the only Christian nation in this world is the church, the holy nation that transcends all human-made walls, boundaries and borders.
As we gather at the table, we remember that the power to redeem, to save, and to transform comes not from atop the seat of power but from within the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
We will gather for Election Day Communion not because we think that the issues at stake in this election are unimportant or that our votes don’t really matter. No, we will gather for Communion because we think that the issues at stake in all elections are far too important to be relegated to our votes alone.
The Lord’s Supper reminds followers of Jesus to practice the politics of Jesus. To me, practicing the politics of Jesus means working to protect the sanctity of all human life, whether it is found in the womb, in prison, or in countries at war against us.  It means choosing the way of forgiveness and reconciliation rather than vengeance and violence. It means practicing an economy based on generosity and mutual aid. It means offering care and compassion to suffering people regardless of their immigration status, economic class or religious practice. It means being good stewards of God’s good creation. And, most of all, it means allowing God’s kingdom to break into the entirety of our lives, from the privacy of our homes to the politics we practice in public.
The bread and the cup keep calling me back to the table inscribed with memory. There, I remember God’s choice for the transfer of power. There, I remember where to go with my fears, my hopes, my worries and my struggles. At the table, with my sisters and brothers, I am in the presence of the Holy. Though I’m interested in the outcome of the presidential election, I won’t be watching the projected results as they are announced. I’ve made a prior commitment. I intend to honor it.

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