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A Common Meal and a Digital Divide

"What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?"
The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked heated debates about what it is Christians do when they celebrate communion, many of which have centered on arguments about the validity of online communion services. In her blog post, On Hoarding the Eucharist in a Hungry World, Diana Butler Bass frames the questions as follows: “Can Christians celebrate the Eucharist—the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion —through technology? Is the sacrament valid if it happens virtually?”
These questions and the online back-and-forth that followed led me to return to the first historical reference to the Lord’s Supper and the words of institution. This occurs in Paul’s chastising of the wealthy Corinthian for how they were separating themselves from the poor when celebrating the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:17-34). This passage and the chapter on the Body of Christ that immed…
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The Elm and the Vine

"The two cities function symbiotically, and that is a reflection of how the two countries function symbiotically." - Bob Cook, President of the Nonprofit Economic Development Corporation, on El Paso and Ciudad Juarez
This past January I traveled with Episcopal Divinity School at Union students to El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico where we participated in the Annunciation House’s week-long Border Awareness Experience. A few days into the trip, the group headed up to a scenic mountain bluff in El Paso, Texas. From the mountain bluff, the border wall separating El Paso and Ciudad Juarez was nearly impossible to see. The two cities - one American, one Mexican - spread before me and my companions as a single teeming organism. This “Borderplex” is the largest bi-national community in the world, two regions connected by four international bridges that is the busiest crossing of people and cargo on earth.[1]
Despite their interconnectedness there are major differences between t…

Clement of Alexandria: Salvation for the Rich

"The reason why salvation seems more difficult  for the rich than for the poor is complicated." 
How did Christianity become so milk toast? I carry versions of this question around with me on an almost daily basis. How did a faith tradition rooted in texts that center the lives of the poor, which contain the Magnificat, the Beatitudes, and the story of the Rich Young Ruler, and which looks forward to an apocalyptic great reversal -- how did that tradition end up becoming so surprisingly accommodating of wealth and the wealthy?

As I’ve explored the work of Clement of Alexandria (c.150-c.215), I’ve enjoyed imagining a parody book entitled Early Christian Sources in Milk Toast Christianity. Clement and his writings on the rich young ruler would demand their own chapter as he represents a key step along the journey of Christianity losing its edge. 
A member of elite Alexandrian society, Clement became the head of the catechetical school in Alexandria c. 200 and his teachings and w…

A Hot Meal and a Full Fridge

Last week, the Brookings Institute released findings from a study estimating that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, children were experiencing food insecurity in almost one in five households of mothers with children age 12 and under.[1] Today’s headline from the New York Times is about how the emergency child hunger program's slow rollout has left millions of children hungry and waiting.[2] Colleagues have told me of how record numbers of people - lines of a thousand one weekend in New York, seven hundred on another - are now showing up at soup kitchens and food banks. 
It is painfully clear that hunger is on the rise. 

Over the past few weeks, I have been thinking about this hunger and what it says about who we are as a country at this point in time. I’ve also been thinking about how the Gospels are, in many ways, stories for and about hungry people. They are replete with the dreams of a persistently hungry people, full of images of banquets, the miraculous feeding of 5,000 fr…