How then do evangelical Christians begin to take steps to reorder the church so that it becomes less a consumeristic society and more of a race-less and class-less community around Jesus? This is the question he seeks to answer in chp 5 of Consuming Jesus. Here’s my question for you:
If you could make one thing happen that would help toward eliminating racism and classism in the church, what it would be?
Here are Paul Metzger’s:
We can reorder the church by reconfiguring our stories by a Scripture that consumes us and we can reconfigure sacred space by letting the all-consuming sacraments shape us.
Scripture: “We must approach the Bible, God’s storied world, from the standpoint that it envelops and consumes us when we consume it” (113).
[I agree with the gist of this section. Metzger needed to delve into Acts and Paul’s letters here more; there is much food for thought in these texts for this issue and I would like to have seen how the ethnic-centered faith of Israel was challenged in the early churches.]
Sacraments and Sacred Space: Sacraments and their theo-political significance. “The Lord’s Supper significes that Christ consumes us when we consume the wafer (or loaf) and the wine (or juice) in faith” (119).
But, we “have neutralized sacred space and watered down the sacraments’ significance” (119). Then: “The neutralizing of the church structure … and the negation of key dimensions of the kingdom mission… have minimized the power of the gospel” (120).
The sacred space of the sanctuary can be revolutionary — here he is appealing to ML King Jr.
“One wonders about the possible connection between churches given to upwardly mobile, homogenous tendencies and their infrequent celebration of and lack of attention to the Lord’s Supper” (124). The Lord’s Supper is not a panacea … but “Intentionality, integrity, and strength through weakness are required of all churches celebrating and practicing the Lord’s Supper as designed by God” (127).
What to do? Keep the communion table front and center and have meals that creatively break down racial and class divisions.
1. A study of Scripture’s narrative (first part of chp) does and cannot lead to second part (Lord’s Supper): there is no architecture for local churches in the New Testament writings. I love ancient cathedrals; I love their aesthetic beauty and their theology. The theology that gave rise to them is my theology. I just don’t believe a theology of architecture can be derived from the NT. One might take the word fellowship to create a room that is round and flat, etc.. It can go in various directions. NT churches met in houses; they did not have communion tables or crosses. The earliest surviving Christian image is of a fish.
2. A study of churches that do maintain sacred space does not encourage me to think sacred space breaks down either racial or class divisions.