On communion for non-baptized people.

I was talking to a friend a few months back and I decided to mention that I’m opposed to people having to be baptized before they get communion.

To say he was opposed to my idea is putting it mildly. He strongly feels that people must be baptized before they get communion, and anything less is fraud. He got a little hostile in his response, and very defensive.

He compared it to when his sister got a mail order ministry certificate and a journalist press pass. She didn’t go to school for these things, so she is saying she is something she isn’t in his opinion. To him, to take communion without being baptized is to say that you are a Christian when you aren’t.

Who would be hurt by a non baptized person taking communion? Who is defrauded? What would be taken away from a person who was baptized if a non-baptized person took communion? And what is the definition of “Christian” – someone who has had the sacraments, or someone who acts in the manner of Jesus?

He got really angry about this topic. I’m starting to learn that anger is a sign of fear, and of a sign of feeling a lack of control.

I wonder what he was so afraid of. I wonder why he feels a need to control who gets communion. Perhaps one day I’ll ask. Perhaps one day I’ll be brave. I’m not sure how to explain my view on this so I’m still working it out. It has taken me several months of working on this to get to this point. I probably have more to say on this subject later.

Baptism is a public declaration of membership into the Body of Christ. Communion is remembering the sacrifice that Jesus made and it is reuniting with him, so that he abides in us, and we in him. It is reuniting to the vine, as we are the branches and we cannot bear fruit if we are not connected to the life-giving vine.

If people can be baptized as infants – this decision is made for them – then why do others have to be baptized to take communion? Baptism is a passive action in denominations that allow infant baptism. Communion is active – you have to intentionally do it. It is something that can’t be done to you or for you. I feel like the very act of wanting to take communion means that you were called to it.

There is a Christian author I like who is named Sara Miles. Her parents are atheists and she was raised to be highly skeptical of organized religion. Sara decided to walk into the church near her house one Sunday. She went in, participated in the service, and when it was time to take communion, she did so. This was a church where you have to get up to go get communion – it wasn’t one where the plate comes by you while you sit in your pew. You have to make an effort. She felt called to take part in this sacrament.

When she took the bread and the wine, she got “it”. She got it harder than people who have been raised in the church. She got it harder than most people who go every week. She met Jesus there at that altar rail, and started a food bank. She realized that it is all about feeding people, about taking care of people. That it is all about love and healing and compassion. Nobody is turned away, and nobody has to “prove” that they are poor. Anybody who wants food gets it, and it is real food, not canned.

Here’s the point. She wasn’t baptized. She continued to go to church for a year before she decided to get baptized.

What if the minister had said beforehand – by the way, you have to be baptized to get this? She most likely would have stayed in her pew, feeling like an outsider. She wouldn’t have had that conversion experience. The food bank wouldn’t have started.

Part of the reason you have to be not only baptized but Catholic to get communion at a Catholic church is the idea of transubstantiation. Transubstantiation means that you believe that the bread and the wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus. The problem is that the majority of Catholics don’t even understand this or believe this – but they still get to take communion.

But forget it if you are from another denomination. I wrote a local Catholic church once and asked if I (at the time an Episcopalian) could take communion there. I was sent a link that explained that because of “the sad divisions” in the Body of Christ, only Catholics could take communion at a Catholic church. The part that drives me up the wall about this is that it is because of rules like this that we have “sad divisions.” Get rid of the rule and stop being sad.

Look at the story of the loaves and fishes. Jesus blessed what was offered, and broke it, and it multiplied. This is a miracle, but it is also real. It is to show us to not be stingy with our gifts. The same message is throughout the Gospels. Give what you have away. Don’t hoard it up. Let your gifts (which are freely given to you by God) be multiplied and then give them away.

God gives us what He gives us because he wants us to give it away to others. It isn’t for keeping. The light of a candle is not diminished by sharing.

So why has the church put a rule on who can take communion? How is the church hurt by a non-baptized person taking communion? Let’s turn that around and ask what is the harm in refusing communion to someone who isn’t baptized? Everything.

We are called to welcome the stranger. We are called to build bridges, not walls. Anything we do that excludes is bad. We are to gather up the lost sheep.

I remember one time I was on a road trip with a boyfriend. We were both kind of hippy-looking, with long hair and tie-dye t-shirts. We stopped at a truck stop to get something to eat and to use the bathroom. Out of the blue, a huge gruff man came up to us and told us that we weren’t welcome there. He was a customer, not an employee. He made it very clear that we weren’t part of the mix of people he expected to see there.

I feel like we are doing the same thing to people when we say they can’t take communion unless they are baptized. We are saying that we are in a special club and it is very nice and you can join too but only if you do it our way. We are in, and you are out.

I don’t want to be part of a club that does that.

I feel that if a person feels called to take communion, they should take communion. Who are we to stand in the way between a person and Jesus?

Now, it isn’t like they check baptism records at the door. It isn’t like there is a mark on you that lets others know that you are part of the club. There isn’t a secret handshake. So you could take communion and not be baptized, but that isn’t the point. The point is that officially, you aren’t supposed to. And that is hurtful.

And it isn’t Christ-like.

The Christian church has to stop acting like it is part of a special exclusive club where we’ve won the game of musical chairs. So sorry – we’ve got it and you don’t. Too bad.

That isn’t what this faith is supposed to be about at all.

If church isn’t about love, and I mean real, deep-down, honest to goodness nonjudgmental welcoming love, then it isn’t really what Jesus died for.

World peace at a coffee shop.

I have started a funny habit. I’ve started asking for world peace. I’ve done this at doctor’s offices, the bank, and restaurants.

When I get asked at the end of the transaction if there is anything else they can do, I ask for world peace. Yes, I get looked at funny. (I’m used to that) But I follow it with the “Ask and ye shall receive” idea. Perhaps that person has the secret for it, and all it required to make it happen was for me to ask.

This seems funny, but it is transformative. It means I have to really connect with the person. We look each other in the eye, and they have to break out of their routine and their script.

There was a great answer at a local vegetarian restaurant. The server said that it was created moment by moment by these interactions, with each person connecting with each other. Exactly.

Gandhi tells us that we must be the change
we want to see in the world.
World peace begins within you.
Think globally, act locally.
It begins with self-love.
Physician, heal thyself.

“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” JF Kennedy. I propose you change the word “country” to “world”.

What if it is hard to love yourself? Try this – know, deep down, that you are loved by God. Forget what some hateful church tried to teach you when you were a child. Forget the guilt-trip that your parents tried to use on you, where they made God into the bogeyman. God isn’t any of that.

God made you because you are needed and wanted. You are essential. That is why you are here.

If according to the “Rules for being human” other people are merely mirrors of you, and you can only love or hate in another that which you love or hate within yourself, then the first step is to learn to love yourself. You cannot hate others if you truly are at peace within.

You can learn how to get to that place by studying your reaction to other people. Whatever you can’t stand in another person, meditate on. Look for that trait within yourself. Dig deep. Root it out. Find its source.

Don’t turn away – go right into that darkness. It isn’t as scary as it looks. The closer you look, the more you look, the more you will be able to unravel that tight ball of pain and anxiety you are carrying around. Sure it is hard at the beginning. It gets easier. The more you unravel, the more you are at peace.

Poem 8, alarm clock.

We are told to get exercise daily
and that being green is important.
Good luck on that.

These dreams aren’t taught.
They dissipate in the diaspora,
dying in the sunlight, sublime, subliminal.

Remember what you are
Remember that you are
Remember everything and everyone
But forget it too.

Nothing that is necessary is in these words.
You already know this.
You already know all of this.
I’m just the alarm clock.

Notes from the Dalai Lama’s talk, May 19th, 2013

I went to Louisville, KY on May 19th to hear the 14th Dalai Lama speak on “Engaging Compassion”, along with about 14,000 other people. These are my notes from that public talk. My comments are in parenthesis.

This is the century of dialogue. More and more people from all over the world and all religions are talking with each other.

America is the leader of the free world, so it is possible to lead the world in compassion.

It would be good if America could import its democracy style to China.

He is Buddhist, and he prays every day, but he accepts the limitation of prayer. Real effect comes through action.

To make the entire world better, start with yourself. Your actions make a difference.

If you have respect for other’s well-being, then there is no room for violence.

Peace starts within you, now. It creates a ripple effect.

When we are born, our survival is based on other’s care and affection. This continues to be true as we get older. The survival of humans and the planet is based also on care and affection from others.

If you have a healthy mind, you will have a healthy body. If you have a peaceful mind, you will show compassion. If you show peace towards others, you will be healthy. Showing compassion is a benefit to yourself as well as the world. Anger is self-destructive. The counter force to anger and hatred is tolerance.

Attachment leads to bias and a loss of objectivity.

It is possible to have faith in your tradition, and still have respect for all traditions.

On war – If one person kills another person, he is a murderer and goes to jail. If a soldier kills a thousand people, he is a hero. (Killing is killing, no matter who does it.)

The biggest moral and social problem is the gap between the rich and the poor. It is similar to the caste system in India.

There is a oneness within all human beings. We all have the right to be happy.

It is possible to oppose another person’s attitude but still love them.

Instead of anger, have pity. (It is more compassionate to feel sorrow at another person’s bad choice of behavior than to be angry.)

Have a genuine concern for other’s well-being.

Separate action from actor. Oppose the action, forgive the person. People are not what they do.

We must respect all of God’s creation. So environmentalism should be part of your faith.

There are over one billion non-believers, so we must find different ways to help them to understand how to have a “happy life and a happy body.”

In India, “secular” means “respect for all religions,” as well as “respect for non-believers.” (It is not negative like in America, where “secular” means “not religious.”)

Thomas Merton was a bridge between Buddhist and Christian monks. If you follow your own tradition, you will discover that we are all following the same practice.

Politically, His Holiness the Dalai Lama is Marxist. He believes that in capitalism, if profit is the goal, then humans suffer. Humans are more important than profit.

(Edit) – I’m adding some pictures to this, since I’ve figured out how.

On the way to the event –
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Waiting outside to get in. We got there about an hour early. There was a long line past us.
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Seen outside the auditorium.
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Our seats were really really high up. The rest of the crowd has not arrived yet. We had time to get and eat our lunch there.
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The Dalai Lama has arrived. The tiny red dot in the center is him.
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On the Jumbotron.
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Compassion

Compassion is about love. It is not only about feeling love, it is about showing it and making it real. Prayer is great, but action is greater.

Part of showing love is being aware that every single person is worthy of love. This includes the nice people and the not so nice people. Jesus tells us that it is easy to love the nice people. The real test is how do we treat people who are mean?

A lady asked His Holiness the Dalai Lama when he was in Louisville, KY on May 19th, 2013 how to be compassionate towards the Boston bombers. I think his answer can be used for any situation where a person has been violent. He said we must separate action from actor. The person is not the deed. The action is bad. But there is hope for the person. The person made a bad choice. The person is still deserving of love.

Jesus tells us we are to love our enemies. Buddhists tell us we are to do the same. I’ll add that perhaps if the person had been shown more love in his or her life, she or he would not have been violent.

All behavior is communication so the behavioral manuals say. Children will seek attention in a negative way if they don’t get it in a positive way. What can we do, in our own actions, to make this world a better place? Every single act of kindness can literally save the world.

Remember the story of Abraham bargaining with God that Sodom and Gomorrah would not be destroyed if just ten good people lived there? Sadly, ten good people weren’t found. But how do you know that the same situation isn’t about to happen with your town?

This gives a whole new meaning to the line “Be good for goodness sake.” Your goodness isn’t about getting you a present from Santa Claus. It is about saving the world. It can bring about true healing.

So how can you show compassion? Start off with not being judgmental. You never know what the other person has gone through. Be kind to everyone. Smile. Complement them. Think of the other person’s needs. Put yourself in their shoes. Learn about other faiths and cultures. Learn how to say thank you in other languages.

Think about what you say you believe and what you do. Are they in harmony? If you believe that it is important to take care of the earth, then you need to recycle, and use less gasoline. Buy less stuff. Consume less of everything. Be mindful about your actions – what are the repercussions of what you are going to do, what you bought? Who is affected? How does this affect the earth? Everything is connected.

Being compassionate is about respecting the idea that every person is on their own journey. It is about being patient and kind with everyone. It isn’t about converting others to your belief system – it is about sincerely practicing your own.

Action and Actor

The Dalai Lama, in his address in Louisville, Kentucky on May 19th, 2013 talked about the difference between “action and actor”. The person is not what they do. While the action may be bad, the person themselves is not. I liken this to when Jesus said “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” Jesus was dying on the cross. It was a painful, degrading, public way to die. His disciples had left him. The soldiers were gambling for his clothing. In that horrible, embarrassing, difficult moment he showed compassion. He understood the difference between the action and the actor.

Forgive the person. They can’t help it. They would if they could.

Every single person is made in the image of God. Every single person has within them the light of God. It is through the will of God that each one of us continues to exist moment by moment, heartbeat by heartbeat.

Consider Judas. He has long been considered the bad guy in the Gospel story, but his role is essential. There are no saint medals for him, there is no special day set aside to commemorate him. But if it weren’t for Judas, that part of the prophecy would not have been fulfilled. Jesus knew that he was going to be betrayed by Judas, and forgave him. How many of us would be able to forgive someone who was going to betray us?

I have to confess that I have a soft spot in my heart for Judas. He was a pawn. God made him do what he had to do. When he came to his senses he killed himself. What a horrible thing to realize you have just sold out the person you believe to be the Messiah, the Savior, the Son of God.

Something about this story appeals to me personally. I have long wrestled with my calling and felt that it was not real. Who would listen to me, a bipolar lady who says she hears from God? God has enough crazy people who say they are His followers. The Christian faith doesn’t need any more crazy people. But if God can use someone like Judas, the most hated disciple, to bring forth what needs to happen, then who am I to argue?

We are told that if you trust in God, you know that all things work for good.

All things. Even the stuff that looks wrong and crazy and weird. Even the acts of terror. Even war. Everything is in God’s control. If we really believe that “He has the whole world in His hands,” as we teach small children to sing in Sunday school, then we need to start actually acting like we believe it.

Part of that is found in not judging anything. Not just not judging people, but not judging ourselves and events. Not deciding if things are “good” or “bad.” This is very Zen here. But it is all about accepting everything and everyone and every moment exactly as is. Without judgment, without trying to change what is, and without trying to escape.

We are told that every moment is the guru.

Every illness, every failing test score, every unwanted, unkind word, everything is our teacher.

Even Judas.

God bless us, every one.