The internet has connected me with people, music, movies, and pictures from around the world, and it’s connected us all in ways that has never been possible before. I have friend in South Korea, England, and India, and I can send them a message at any moment. And yet, it seems like people are still able to be as nationalistic as we ever were. We tend to think of our countries as spaces to be protected from outsiders, and outsiders are whoever we don’t see as part of our in-group. We see outsiders as a threat to our economies, our political life, our social status. These are the things that theologians often refer to as “empire;” the seat of power in our world, and the people who have access to it.
If you attend a church regularly, you have probably been around for Communion or Eucharist. This looks different depending on the denomination you’re a part of, but essentially, every Christian eats some bread and drinks some wine (or grape juice) together. The reason we do this is because of Jesus, who told his disciples before he was crucified to eat this meal together to remember him.
In the same way that there are different ways of receiving Eucharist, there are many different ways that people understand it. One way that I have heard it explained is that by eating the bread and drinking the wine (or juice), we are actually participating in Jesus’ suffering, which he took on for us. And because Jesus suffered with those who suffer, we also remember those who suffer oppression, poverty, and persecution.
Eucharist is the understanding that my empire extends beyond the borders of my own home land. That when a woman and her children are homeless in Syria or Columbia, it’s the same as if a woman and her children were homeless in Canada. If there is a woman who receives communion in Mexico, it’s the same as if she were a woman who goes to my church, and what happens to her is as if it happened to someone that I sit next to on Sunday. We are all connected through Jesus, who suffered for us, and in whose suffering we all participate.
Jesus himself tells us in Matthew 5:23-24 that we should make sure we are right with each other before we do these religious things, and the apostle Paul warns against being at odds with each other when we receive Communion.
The work that Benjamin Cole Brown did to help alleviate suffering in Haiti is such a beautiful reminder of what it means to be in Christ. In Christ, we know that we are all even more connected than the internet has made us. We are family, and there is no real border between us.