Every Sunday I call people forward to communion with a short invitation.

Our eucharistic invitation says:

Jesus invites you to this table.
Come you who are hungry
and you who know you are poor.
Open your heart,
it is the Lord who invites you.

Jesus said,

Blessed are those who hunger… (Matthew 5:6)

He also said,

Blessed are you who are poor… (Luke 6:20)

We are assaulted from an early age by judgment, evaluation, and condemnation when we fail to make the grade. Every part of life is measured and assessed. We recognize all the signs that designate “success” and the shameful marks of “failure.”

The world operates by the relentless standard of good, better, best. And the only place to be is “best”, until we reach it and discover that even “best” is not quite good enough. As soon as we fulfill one shining ambition the goal posts move a little further down the field. We live in a merciless meritocracy. No one ever really arrives; no place is home in the bottomless pit of getting ahead.

Jesus did not measure. Jesus was not interested in the achievements that so preoccupy the world.

In the kingdom of Jesus we do not need to be better, or to do better. The spiritual life is not a make-work project in which we are driven to strive endlessly to improve.

As Mary Oliver famously wrote in her poem “Wild Geese”:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

There are only three qualifications for encountering the numinous living presence that, in Christianity, we call Christ.

Can you be hungry? Can you admit that you are poor? Will you open your heart?

There is nothing else to do.

The celebration of the eucharist is the heart of Christian life because the eucharist is fundamentally egalitarian. Everyone is welcome. There is no means test to come to the table.

Jesus shared his supper with those who would desert him, deny him, and betray him. He did not demand that they get it right before he would feed them. He did not issue a theology exam before  passing the bread. He did not quiz anyone about their moral rectitude or their perfect score on the purity scale. He fed them in the midst of their poverty. He fed them when they were broken, conflicted, weak, and filled with doubt and fear.

In the eucharisht we offer bread and wine to people like me. I am invited not because I am good enough, smart enough, strong enough, spiritual enough, moral enough, or anything enough. I am invited because I am a failure. I am a broken human being. When I come to receive bread and wine at the Lord’s table, I come with empty hands. I come only to receive. I do not earn the bread I am given, or deserve the wine that is shared.

If the invitation is to the Lord’s Table, it has no conditions attached… none!

But, when this unconditional invitation is received and taken into my heart, that which I receive will not leave me unchanged.  I come away from the table knowing that, despite the frequent failures, confusion and chaos of my life, I dwell in the presence of love. There is nothing to prove, nothing to earn. My heart is at home.

As Mary Oliver concludes:

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

The world is filled with grace. Life gives unstintingly and without demand, or expectation. I need only to allow my heart to open and rest in the peace and beauty that announces my place “in the family of things.”

 

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