Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Real Presence of Christ

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,
you did for me [Matt. 25:35 & 40].”  Jesus is present in the poor when they are given rice.  This is “real presence” even a Baptist can affirm.

Jim Kelsey
Executive Minister—American Baptist Churches of New York State