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March 2011: Lent 1: A meal with friends

Through lent 2011 we have a series of evenings in homes reading through the book Cave Refectory Road, sharing a meal and bread and wine. This was the focus for the first...

it is possible to think of the church as a community of friends. it is an idea about church that has not much been explored. other ideas have had lots of mileage - the people of god, the body of christ, the communion of saints, the bride of christ, a pilgrim people. but for some reason not many have explored this notion.

it actually ties in rather nicely with the lovely idea that ian adams refers to in his book cave refectory road where he quotes brother roger of taize who says that our task is to live a parable of community. (read from page 6-7 cave refectory road)

if we think of church in this way, communion or the eucharist might well be conceived of as a meal with friends which is at the heart of the life of a community of friends. this is such a simple idea! steve summers* has written wonderfully about this. but you don't need to read a phd thesis to get it. i have been remarkably struck by this and thought it was a good idea with which to kick off this series of meals with friends in lent.

in the build up to jesus last meal with the disciples he says these things:
'i have called you friends',
'you are my friends'
and he makes the statement 'greater love has no one than this - that he lay down his life for his friends' which of course is precisely what he was set to do though his friends didn't realise it.
to be a friend of god - what an astonishing thing!

jesus got killed for having the wrong sort of friends of course - his friendship was open to and with sinners, the poor, the marginalised, the outsiders - so it's not meant to be a safe comfortable friendship with people like me which could be a danger of this notion i guess. but it's a radical friendship and hospitality.

i was thinking that god is in godself a community of friends - three persons in relationship, which theologians have sometimes conceived of as a dance that we are invited into. you probably know rublev's icon - god is a community, there's food on the table and a space open as you look at the icon. the space suggests we are invited to join this friendship and this meal.

i don't have many magic words tonight, just those thoughts -
church is a community of friends and communion is a meal with friends
so let this whole meal be an occasion to remember jesus who is present with us though god's spirit and through one another. before we eat let's pass round bread and remember his words
'i have called you friends' 'you are my friends' [pass round bread]

and as we pass wine if you are ever in doubt that you are worthy of being god's friend (which i suspect we all regularly doubt) remember jesus words 'greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends' [pass round cup of wine]

* Steve Summers - Friendship: Exploring Its Implications for the Church in Postmodernity

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