More than half a lifetime ago I co-wrote my first book, The Transforming Vision. And there was one response to that book that continues to ring through the years to me. No, actually, there were two responses, and they are deeply connected to each other.
The first response was from my friend and co-author, Richard Middleton. Upon completing the manuscript and offering up prayers dedicating this work to the furthering of the Kingdom of God, Richard looked at me and said, “You know that there is something missing in this book.” I thought that was an odd thing to say at this particular moment, and I couldn’t guess what he was talking about. Then he said, “This book says nothing about suffering, even though suffering is so central to the biblical story.” And then Richard added, “But that’s okay, we don’t know anything about suffering.”
An honest and telling moment of self-evaluation. These two young men had written a fine book on a Christian worldview – indeed, a book still in print – but missed a central motif in biblical faith.
The second comment was more inexplicable to me at the time. A friend and former student simply said to me, “It’s a great book, but you don’t know anything about the Eucharist.”
I had no idea what the woman was talking about. The book wasn’t about the Eucharist. What was her point?
Well, if you don’t know anything about suffering, then you likely won’t know anything about the Eucharist either, will you.
If you promote a Christian worldview without reference to suffering, then of course this will be a worldview without the Eucharist. It will be, if you will, a worldview without the cross. Or at least it will be a worldview without a deep enough grasp of the cross. And it will be a worldview that knows nothing of a profound dwelling in Holy Week.
As I look back on that period of my life I also recall that I was studying with Douglas John Hall at McGill University. Professor Hall was always talking about the “theology of the cross” and I was always pushing back with a “theology of resurrection.” Around that time, Hall wrote:
“Against the promotion of easy solutions to difficult human questions, the Bible offers the cross: that is God involved in the ambiguity of existence, broken by alienation, powerful only in the weakness of love.”
There was something about a God who was “powerful only in the weakness of love” that didn’t sit well with me. And that is likely why I knew nothing about the Eucharist. Read more A Pastoral Letter for Holy Week 2011