Sometimes I think that we Christians need to spend a little bit of time outside of our normal church circles and see what we can learn. Yesterday I got to spend a little time with a Catholic deacon. This was a whole new experience for me and I found that a lot of my perceptions of Catholics were ignorant. A lot of what I had been told about Catholics apparently just isn’t true. However, that is not the purpose of this post, so I digress.
What I did learn from my new friend was the meaning of Mass. I always thought Mass was just a fancy word for “worship service”, “church”, or any other word or phrase we may use to describe a weekend church service. While that is what most people mean when they say “mass”, that is not the original meaning. The word “mass” actually comes from the Latin word “missa” or “dismissal”. For Catholics, it was intended for this word to imply mission. When I learned this, I earned a greater respect for Catholics and how they view the purpose and mission of their weekend services.
In my tribe (the Churches of Christ), I don’t think many would argue with me that one of main reasons for gathering each week is to partake of the Lord’s Supper. The Lord instituted this meal for us with His disciples before He was crucified. He took an old Jewish feast and gave it a whole new meaning. He was now becoming the sacrificial lamb needed at the Passover. And so of course the Lord’s Supper is about remembering Christ, the Lamb who took away our sins. But I wonder if we could learn from our Catholic brothers and sisters a little more by looking at their mission of Mass?
In communion, Christ says that we partake of His body and blood through the symbols of the bread and the wine (Matthew 26:26-28). We consume the bread and the wine, but unlike other food that we consume and it becomes apart of us, we consume Christ and become a part of Him. In communion, we inhale Christ so to speak. And then if we put meaning to the term mass, or dismissal, we now leave to exhale Christ. We bring together Jesus’ words from Matthew 26 when he institutes this supper and His words from Matthew 28 when He dismisses, or sends His disciples.
So what if we as Christians started to rethink our gathering? What if we reconsider the mission and purpose of Sunday mornings? Sure there are many reasons for coming together, but none more important than to inhale or breathe in Christ so that we can in turn be dismissed to exhale the hope of Jesus to a broken world. This Sunday, when you commune, I encourage you to think a little bit more about what it is you are actually doing. And as you leave your church building, think about your mission of being the church. Inhale……exhale.