Wednesday, December 14, 2011

An African perspective on communion

What is the meaning and purpose of Holy Communion?
What might it have meant in its original Jewish communal context?

Luke 22:14-20 contains an account of The Last Supper of Jesus, where

he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me."

On this passage the Africa Bible Commentary says
We ought to play closer attention to the meaning of the sharing of the bread and wine in remembrance of Jesus Christ. Western countries tend to operate on the principle that writings remain, but spoken words are fleeting. This principle does not hold true in Africa where spoken words do not vanish but remain to guide the community through the centuries. In many African communities, a wise older woman or man will call a child or younger person and give her or him food and drink. While the young person eats and drinks, the older person narrates the entire public wisdom and history of the ethnic group or society. This word, which brings wisdom, must not only be received, but must be swallowed together with the food and drink - actually, it has to be chewed and eaten in the biblical sense (Psalm 1:2). It should become part and parcel of the flesh and blood of the listener, so that this person generates and gives birth to life abundantly.
This also gives me a better perspective on the role and significance of oral tradition, something that would have been critical in the contexts in which both the Old and New Testaments were written.

1 comment:

  1. That's brilliant, hey? Don Carson compared the reading of historical theology to cross cultural worship experience. Whilst the core meaning of the Scriptures is consistent, it is fascinating to see the application and the explanation of Bible doctrine among people who have life experiences, challenges to faith and worldviews that are vastly different to our own.