I could never keep them straight: consubstantiation versus transubstantiation. Luckily, in 25 years of ministry no one has ever asked me about this--one of the benefits of being Baptist. There is sometimes a little discussion about the nuances of an ordinance and a memorial, but people soon lose interest and move on to what desserts will be at the potluck next week.
This past Sunday I gained a new appreciation of the meaning of the “real presence of Christ” during a communion service at the Zomi Christian Church in Buffalo, New York. I noticed at the front of the sanctuary a large plastic tub with what looked to me like sawdust. Early in the service, a young girl brought up a jar and poured something into the tub; I then realized it was rice.After having led the observance of communion, I ended the service with the following benediction:
You have been fed; the bread gives you new life born of God’s love.
You have drunk; the cup gives you freedom born of God’s forgiveness.
Live this week alive with God’s love and free in God’s forgiveness.
I wanted our observance to bring the felt presence of Christ in their lives that week
As I talked with church members after the service, I asked about the rice. They said that each time a family prepares a meal they scoop up a handful of rice, put it in a jar, and bring the jar to church when they come. The rice is then used to feed the poor.
I thought: “Now this is ‘real presence.’” When the rice is shared with a needy family, Jesus is present in a palpable way. He once said, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, Jesus is present in the poor when they are given rice. This is “real presence” even a Baptist can affirm.
Executive Minister—American Baptist Churches of New York State