The Sacred Meal
Not So Sacred Book
I rarely pay full cover price for a book. Some of my book cost me nothing. They are either gifts from family and friends or Christian publishers and promotional agencies send them to me. I look for books on closeout or clearance. The closest I ever pay to cover price is when I order a book from Amazon.com.
A few months ago, I picked up a copy of The Sacred Meal (2009, Thomas Nelson) by Nora Gallagher on sale somewhere. It is part of Thomas NelsonÃ¢ÂÂs Ã¢ÂÂThe Ancient Practices SeriesÃ¢ÂÂ. Obviously, it is about the Christian practice known as Communion or the LordÃ¢ÂÂs Supper.
I truly love the practice of Communion. I think this is a practice that most Protestants do not take seriously enough. Most do not participate often enough to say they practice Communion.
I am planning a sermon on Communion in a couple of weeks, so I thought it would be helpful to give this a quick read. I was wrong.
The Sacred Meal is a quick and easy read and Gallagher is a wonderful writer. The book is less than 140 pages and incredibly readable. Any problems with the book are strictly with its contents. It is incredibly bad theology well written.
Gallagher is an Episcopalian trained for the priesthood who chose to not become a priest. For the sake of this review, IÃ¢ÂÂll reserve comments about what roles women should biblically play in ministry. In her local congregation, she has the role of a Lay Eucharistic Minister. Again, I will choose not to comment on the particulars of the composition of the elements of Communion (bread and wine or juice) in the differing denominations. Suffice it to say, referring to it as the Ã¢ÂÂEucharistÃ¢ÂÂ means something.
One of my biggest issues with the book is that Gallagher rarely referred to the root of the practice of Communion, namely the last Passover meal Jesus shared with his disciples. How is it possible to gain insight into the practice and avoid its history?
In relation to Communion, Gallagher referenced the wedding at Cana and the feeding of the five thousand as Ã¢ÂÂCommunionÃ¢ÂÂ stories, but not the actual last supper. I found that very confusing.
The other frustrating thing about this book is the constant social references. I agree that we live in a consumption driven culture, often even in the church. But everything in the Bible is not intended to be primarily about changing culture and society. Culture and society are changed when the hearts of individuals are changed and they are renewing their minds through the work of the Holy Spirit. Somehow the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah made it into a book about Communion. I am still not sure how that happened.
"There are many versions of why they were eventually destroyed. Prevalent among them are sadistic cruelty to beggars and visitors, murder, greed. Jewish commentaries affirm that the Sodomites committed terrible and repeated economic crimes against each other and outsiders, including rape, both homosexual and heterosexual." (page 31)
That quote was pulled from a chapter called Ã¢ÂÂWaitingÃ¢ÂÂ, about waiting in line to receive Communion in her church.
In my opinion, your time should not be wasted with this book. The writing is truly beautiful and artistic. The subject of Communion was almost completely avoided, at least from a biblical perspective.
September 14, 2012
Not what I expected
This book is an account of one womanÃ¢ÂÂs journey through the tradition of the Anglican Communion, or as she calls it, Eucharist. It is the story of her feelings and thoughts that make the experience meaningful for her, most of which has no connection to scripture. More often than not, she uses mundane examples i.e. yoga (???), global capitalism, illegal aliens, provisions to an army etc. to explain what she is talking about.
If one wants to be informed on the biblical truth about this subject, this book is not for you as the scriptures are rarely mentioned and far from being a historical account, it is only an account of the Anglican communion experience which as we know did not begin until the Middle Ages.
The book is divided up into chapters where she investigates the qualities needed prior to taking communion, what was her experience in receiving communion and what she looked for as a result of taking communion.
She then tries to defend or deny the ideas of transubstantiation, magical thinking arising out of taking communion, myths and traditions associated with it and finally some history.
For me the history chapter was the best as I have already done extensive study on this subject, and it encompassed a wider brief in discussing the topic and she moves away from her own emotional responses to taking communion.
In the history chapter Nora the author points out that the New Testament church always conducted this ritual in the context of a communal meal, yet there is no questioning as to why this is not the case today. She just accepts that Ã¢ÂÂthings changedÃ¢ÂÂ when Constantine made Christianity the state religion but she does admit that the modern day communion may be quite different to the original intention of the New Testament church (which it is).
In the last chapter she admits to loving ritual and liturgy, performed weekly without deviation, which could mean that she is not an impartial observer which prevents her from being objective.
If you are an Anglican and have the idea that there is more to communion than eating a wafer and imbibing a sip of wine, you will probably enjoy the book as the experiences the author sets out which she believes makes it more meaningful or mystical (I am not sure where one ends and the other begins) may help you enjoy some of the things that you do when involved in this ritual, or as she calls it Ã¢ÂÂpractice.Ã¢ÂÂ
For others it will be a may or may not, depending on how you see the majesty and/or sacredness of the so called meal which Nora puts a lot of emphasis on and one cannot help get the feeling that there is some magical or supernatural outcome if one can only Ã¢ÂÂtune inÃ¢ÂÂ to the force behind it.
All in all, definitely not a historical or biblical treatise of the subject, more an autobiography of the emotions and feelings of one personÃ¢ÂÂs involvement in the Anglican Communion in an attempt to give it a life that ultimately might only be a figment of oneÃ¢ÂÂs very vivid imagination.
June 8, 2011
Great renewing read
I just finished reading The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher and Phyllis Tickle. I picked this book up because I have become very weary of Ã¢ÂÂmodern ChristianityÃ¢ÂÂ. I have found that I am searching for the roots of my faith. I really enjoyed this book. I found the idea that no matter where we find ourselves in our Christian walk. Whether you are a Roman Catholic or you are a Holy Roller Pentecostal. We all share one common thing; we all celebrate the Sacred Meal. It is at this time we all stop and remember what Christ did for us and the promises that he made to us. I also like the fact that Gallagher reminded us that it is at communion God will at times put us face to face with the very people that we donÃ¢ÂÂt want to have contact with, as if God is saying, Ã¢ÂÂI made peace with you through the blood of my son, now you make peace with them at my table.Ã¢ÂÂ I also liked the fact that Gallagher did not get bogged down in the theological arguments about the bread and the wine becoming the body and blood of Christ. But she focused on the miracle that happens in us when we allow God to heal and restore use threw the work of the Cross. I would recommend this book to anyone that is looking for a refreshing and thought provoking discussion of Communion.
May 14, 2011
This book is from the Ancient Practices Series, which includes topics such as tithing and fasting, and in this book, Communion. I found it to be, quite frankly, disturbing.
This book, purporting to speak of Christ's resurrection and how we are to remember the sacrifice He made, describes some events that were very unsettling to me, and barely speaks about the fact that Christ rose after He died. There was also very little Bible references, and some of what she said seemed to be even antithetical to Christianity.
Gallagher explains a few Communion experiences she had of feeling nearness to God akin to reaching a higher plane as in Buddhist meditation. She talks of one time when she celebrated Ramadan with some Islamics, and participated in their standing up, falling to their knees, leaning forward, pressing their foreheads to the floor, rising to their knees and then repeating it. She says "It was amazing. It was the most bodily prayer I have ever experienced. The closest thing I had done to it was during yoga." Embracing another religion in such a way and feeling 'fed' after speaks to me of an 'all roads lead to heaven' belief, which clearly goes against the Bible. But besides that, for all this wonder she supposedly experienced then, there is no mention of God or how she felt His presence or drew nearer to Him. It was simply a feel-good experience.
She also states that "at the altar, we are invited into what Jesus called heaven." She seems to imply that the bread and wine we partake of have special powers: "I see nothing wrong in the desire for magic; it's who we are" and that the Communion wafer "points to what has been and what can be but also opens your eyes to what is right now. This will put you in the role of prophet."
Sentences like that left me feeling very disturbed and made me very turned off from the content of this book.
**I received this book free from booksneeze.com in exchange for my honest review.
May 13, 2011