The Practice of Eucharist to Shape a Justice-Oriented People
In anticipation of the 2018 Intersection Conference, we asked speakers like Dr. Kyuboem Lee, Director of the DMin Program and Asst. Professor of Missiology at Biblical Seminary, to whet our appetites for what they plan to share around the theme of “Culture.” Kyuboem offers a compelling glimpse into his talk: “The Practice of Eucharist to Shape a Justice-Oriented People.” The Eucharist declares one kingdom—and the events and monuments of our culture declare another. How can we submit to the formative power of the Eucharist, joining Christ in witnessing to his kingdom of justice?
By Kyuboem Lee
The Eucharist is a sign of God’s kingdom and of his Messiah whose body was broken and whose blood was shed for his people. So it is meant to shape those who partake of it into citizens of the kingdom of God, into “little Christs” and a community that is itself a sign, marked by love for God and love for each other, worship and justice, shalom and service.
It is manna from heaven to nurture our faith through communion with God and with saints, and feeds our imagination with an enlarging vision of the world as it should be, in which God reigns and his will is done. It feeds Christ in us so that by our whole lives we grow in witnessing against the sorry state of the world in bondage to sin, against the unjust and unholy ways our societies have been arranged, which fall far short.
The Eucharistic community thus has at its very heart an open and regular access to the spiritual nourishment and power necessary to carry out their vocation as witness to another world, another possibility.
Well, that is the intention. But the thorny, darker side of that reality is that we also have a deep propensity to misconstruing, by suppressing and exchanging (Romans 1), God’s intentions for us and the world. We do this partly by misappropriating the Eucharist or exiling it to an amorphous religious realm that has no bearing on our social reality.
When we read 1 Cor. 11, it is apparent that Christians have always experienced the temptation to co-opt the Eucharist for the project of reinforcing inequalities and exclusions, rather than submit to its formative and subversive power. In this passage, we encounter a Paul who is very upset at the Corinthian Christians because they were eating and drinking in a manner unworthy of the body of Christ. Specifically, the Eucharist was being served in different ways to different groups, further buttressing the asymmetrical relationship between the rich and poor. The rich were invited into the inner sanctums where food and wine overflowed; the poor were excluded and given the leftovers of the rich. Paul’s ire arose because the Eucharist, the very sign of God’s kingdom, was being used to further the old world’s agenda. He argued that one could not profess one body and one cup and practice classism in the administration of the Eucharist—it amounted to a betrayal of everything that the Eucharist stood for. So he called on the Corinthian Christians to repent, and to come to the table having examined themselves in light of the eschatological reality the table signified.
It is revealing to meditate on this passage today. Last year, in the aftermath of the deadly confrontations at Charlottesville around the monument of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general, I wrote a piece reflecting on the Eucharist as a counter-monument. The Eucharist declares one kingdom, but the Charlottesville monument declares quite another, one that is founded on the asymmetrical relationship between whites and non-whites. That many who partake in the Eucharist and identify themselves as part of the body of Christ can so readily declare allegiance to another reality that cannot be reconciled to the reign of God in Christ reveals just how pernicious our ability to misconstrue God’s intentions is. (I am here picturing a photo of a KKK rally being held in a church under a banner that reads, “Jesus Saves.”) Indeed, the persistent ability of the kingdom of this world to masquerade as the kingdom of God constitutes an important narrative strand of Christendom in the West.
But the events of our day may be an opportunity for the body of Christ to return to the original vision of God’s kingdom for which Christ has come. We have been asking what it means to be an evangelical, how our Christianity might have been compromised by old allegiance and identities and kingdoms. These are not new questions, but they have come to us with a renewed urgency in our day, in what feels to many like an era of transition. It would be important, during this time, for the church to give a faithful witness to the kingdom of God and clearly articulate the truth of Christ’s good news. Part of that would involve repenting of injustices that the church has either neglected to extricate itself from or been active perpetrator of. Another part of it would be to return to the one source of Christian hope, to be made new and fit for the calling before us and join Christ in witnessing to his kingdom of justice.
I believe the Eucharist holds many lessons for us in this; I would like to explore what these might be with some of you at the 2018 Intersection Conference, and beyond with the rest of the body of Christ.
- What does it mean to return to the original vision of God’s kingdom?
- What social or political injustices is God calling you to repent of personally?
- What questions would you like to ask Dr. Lee at the Intersection Conference?
Dr. Kyuboem Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. He was educated in evangelical and reformed institutions in the US. He has lived, church planted, and ministered cross-culturally in Philadelphia since 1993. He has also taught urban mission at the graduate level since 2006, has edited the Journal of Urban Mission since 2010, and serves as a leading voice with Missio Alliance. Kyuboem is married to Christe and is the father of two sons, Amoz and Theo.