I recently read an article in which a Methodist minister referred to the Eucharist as “revolutionary.” It would be easy to dismiss her use of a term used to advertise a new shampoo or safety razor. But the claim that the Eucharist is revolutionary is a reminder we very much need to hear, for it is very much true. We can too easily get accustomed to what we do at the Eucharist and forget its meaning for us and for the world. We lose much, perhaps everything, if we forget it.
In the Eucharist we are joined to the sacrifice of Christ—offered and received—and the sacrifice of Christ is the only true revolution. All the other revolutions have turned out to be merely adjustments in the way things are done, for better and far too often for the worse.
The American Revolution was an event of great world historical significance, yet in many ways it was just an adjustment in well-established English ways of living and thinking. The French Revolution replaced the absolute monarchy of France with a government just as absolutist and more bloody, which became the ancestor of all the bloody tyrannies of our era.
Then there is the Scientific Revolution. It has brought much good, but it has also given us greater abilities than human moral capacity can easily manage. It has brought healing, conveniences, communications, and knowledge unimaginable in earlier times, but on the other hand it has brought advanced killing technology, pollution, and embryonic stem cell research. It has provided a convenient excuse for childish atheism and shattered many aspects of human community and family life.
Human revolutions are merely adjustments in human life, not human nature. They leave us unchanged and the real human problem of sin, death, and the devil unaddressed.
The Eucharist—celebrated constantly throughout the world and this night with a particular intensity—turns our world upside down. It announces that at the center of the universe is the crucified Jew, Jesus.
When he was crucified, everybody thought the real action and the real power and glory were in Rome. Jesus was just another small-time, backwoods nuisance to the emperor, easily disposed of.
But in the frail flesh of Jesus, in his death, God changed everything. This is in human terms a most unlikely form of revolution. More radically—if that is imaginable—God continues that work under the forms of bread and wine.
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