It has been some time since I’ve had to read a book as an assignment. Most books I read are either for enjoyment or to learn something. I just finished a book that was neither enjoyable nor instructive. Despite its brevity at only 115 pages, The Sacred Meal by Norah Gallagher was a test in my resolve to finish a book. Normally, I would have just tossed the book aside, but I was compelled to finish it so I could write this review.
In The Sacred Meal, Gallagher attempts to explain the practice of the Eucharist—or Communion or the Lord’s Supper. She shares about her personal experiences regarding Communion from her first exposure while visiting a Catholic church as a child to her serving as a Lay Eucharist Minister in her Episcopal church. Primarily, she describes Communion as a holy meal that unites people together—ethnicity, social status, economic station, and even religious affiliation notwithstanding—giving us a picture of heaven:
Was Communion, I wondered, what Jesus invented to give us a preview of what the kingdom of heaven could be like? —p. 52
Gallagher depicts Communion as shrouded in mystery, which it may be and the reason I chose to read this book, to learn more about a sacrament I am disappointed not to practice much these days. (My church celebrates communion only a handful of times annually.)
We, too, may have come to Communion with twin desires: to give thanks and to seek a magical solution to a given problem. I see nothing wrong in the desire for magic; it’s who we are. —p. 74
Unfortunately, any book that addresses Communion but says little of the Cross and how Jesus bled and died for our sins is not worth the paper it’s printed on—or e-ink. Gallagher briefly mentions sin, however rightly, saying that it is what separates us from God, but she gives no explanation as to how we’ve been reunited with God. She hardly speaks about Jesus at all. Perhaps her participation, as she describes on page 83, in ecumenical worship services—specifically uniting Jews, Muslims, and Christians—has diminished what should be the resolve of every follower of Jesus, that he is the only avenue to the Father.
The communion table is more than the soup kitchen table Gallagher frequently references. No, it isn’t a community table open to everyone. It is exclusive for believers in Jesus to remember his death on our behalf and celebrate his resurrection. And if we haven’t trusted Jesus as the only way to know God, then eating crumbs and a shot of wine (or juice) is a futile practice.
As is reading The Sacred Meal.