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Transcendence and the Lord's Supper

"What is common to us ecumenically - faith in God's good creation, orientation in the disadvantaged, the losers as God's beloved children, discipleship of Christ in a difficult and confusing world and the spirit that helps us - all this is infinitely greater and more important than what separates us in our understanding of the Bible, the sacraments and the office. The separation was long overcome for us in the praxis of faith and action. Liberating theology is not only catholic or protestant." Translated from the German
Transcendence and the Lord's Supper

By Dorothee Soelle

[This sermon at the ecumenical feast of the Ikvu (International church from below) on catholic day in Hamburg 2000 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.ikvu.de/katholikentag/predigt-soelle-katholikentag-2000.html. Dorothee Soelle who died in April 2003 at 73 was a leader in the Koln political night prayer and feminist-liberation theology.]

I'd like to begin with a personal recollection from long ago around my first experiences with the common Lord's Supper. In the time of the Political Night Prayer in Koln (1966 to 1972), our custom was to often attend church services on Sunday, one time at a catholic service and the next time at a protestant service. We shared in the meal, the eucharist, if the priests and pastors tolerated this. We never felt any confessional problems.

After two years of common work, we had a meeting to learn more about the growing circle of 60 persons. The conservations were filled with astonishing surprises: "Oh, I always thought you were protestant! Are you catholic?" Or vice versa. The separations of the 16th century were no longer our separations. We celebrated a church service with a common Lord's Supper at this meeting. Afterwards a friend, the catholic journalist Wilma Sturm, asked whether she still had to attend mass on Sunday. Many of us including myself couldn't understand this question. We had shared Christ with one another.

What is common to us ecumenically - faith in God's good creation, orientation in the disadvantaged, the losers, as God's beloved children, discipleship of Christ in a difficult and confusing world and the spirit that helps us - all this is infinitely greater and more important than what separates us in our understanding of the Bible, sacraments and office. The separation was long overcome for us in the arising praxis of faith and action. Liberating theology is not only catholic or protestant! I also sense this today. Lived Christianity in the peace prayers, in the jubilee year campaign and in cooperation for human rights of garment slaves no longer focuses on traditional confessional and dogmatic understanding. When cautious procrastinators warn us saying "we haven't come that far yet", we make ourselves incredible when we engage3 ourselves.

The delaying tactics from above deny the oneness promised to us. We have heard: "All should be one. As you Father are in me and I am in you, they should also be one in us so the world believes that you sent me." The question about intercommunion doesn't interest any one anymore today except for bishops and theology professors. We have to raise and solve more serious questions, for example how we as Christians deal with globalization from above and the disempowerment or deactivation of all social and ecological regulations.

The theology of the Lord's Supper has also changed. As women in many positions admonished in the last years, we should see the eucharist with its origin in the Jewish community meal. The Eucharist is a meal for satiation and not only a symbolic act. The watchword "Eating more at the Lord's Supper and praying more at meals" is revealing. The Lord's Supper has an integrative function and includes marginal groups like the homeless. The Lord's Supper is shared joy. The blessing of bread and the blessing of the cup are acts of blessing in which Christ's body is shared. Eating is not simply food intake but always a fragment of self-interruption in remembrance of the creation. We could learn to praise the creation.

The rite has something to do with joy in eating. I emphasize this against the protestant tradition that is often marked by a false sin ideology, anxious mourning and its own individualism. We still have much to do. Still we cover the table and remember that the privileges of the satiated were not tolerated by Paul and the original Jesus-community. Justice is not only a matter of individuals. Justice belongs to the heart of the Jesus-community. Justice should shine in our common celebration.

We are all not entirely at home in the church in which we live. "Real church always needs visions, awakenings and wanderings of the people of God.. A real church doesn't plunk down in Roman palaces. Ecclesia semper reformanda. The diversity of rituals, languages and symbolic gestures is a wealth from which we can only learn. In Protestantism, there is a massive unsatisfied need today for materiality, colors, fragrances and movements. People long for a materially visible faith that doesn't only refer to the word. God is always greater than our heart and certainly greater than our church administrations and our theologies. Oneness in and with Christ is promised to us. No office can steal that or claim it for itself.

I'd like to tell you a grandchild story that means much to me. The three-and-a-half year old child brought porcelain cups from the cupboard and built a café under my anxious eyes. Imaginary coffee was offered to imaginary guests. After a while, her mother said: Now it is time for supper and the café should be cleaned up. The child replied with critical astonishment: "Mama, you always only think practically."

This crazy sentence helps me better understand the tradition. This sentence also thinks on two planes. One is the plane of observable and experienced reality, the plane of "practicality", the plane of institutions with their rules and customs. The observable plane has fear of changes, fear that God hides in many places and waits for us. The other plane is the plane that we need and seek and can test. This plane is also called transcendence. Let us not get stuck in formality or practicality. Dear sisters and brothers, we need transcendence!

My instinct tells me that we may not have any more time to wait for the lame ducks' feet of the institutions. The decline and fall of the Christian tradition is threatening. I conclude with a new hymn that arose in 1989 in the former DDR (East Germany). This song could give us more courage than we often have:

"Trust the new paths
and wander in time.
God wants you to be a blessing
for his earth.
He who breathed life in us
in early times
will guide us
where he wants and needs us.

Trust the new paths
on which God sends us!
He comes to meet us,
the future is his land.
Whoever breaks out can hope
in time and eternity.
The doors are open.
The land is bright and vast!"
(EKG 395)

homepage: homepage: http://www.mbtranslations.com

a post script if you will 28.Jun.2003 21:22


I found the article interesting, ( I have read many writings by Soelle) and interesting that it was posted here. I was disappointed that the final "song" included exclusively male language for God. That is of course a major stumbling block for many both within and without the Christian tradition...

Antidote is Available 29.Jun.2003 02:13

doctor x

the key is to understand how it works, all belief systems.

try this article for a starter

How Does Christianity Work?

doctor x

to dr x 29.Jun.2003 20:24


I went to and read the reference you posted and was once again reminded that most people's undestanding of Christ/Jesus/Christianity is on the level of children in Sunday School. In some parts of the world spirituality is well developed because it is not ignored as part of education or learning and I don't mean just teaching the same things and the same way year after year (indoctrination)
Fundamentalism and the picture of Jesus that goes with it is indeed primitive although far too many followers are so poorly educated that they have no idea. Most areas of human understanding have grown/evolved/stretched === we would not consider going back to the world is flat theory or promote a belief in blood letting for curing illness and yet our religion/theology/spiritualities remain not just childlike/ but primitive === in spite of scholarship and teaching inside of forward moving seminaries
or universities. UnfortunateIy, hierarchies and other "men of the cloth" have frequently used their positions of power to keep people in the dark rather than for enlightening. This unfortunate trait is found in many human associations eg. the abuse of power we find in the government --- and yet we know that there are many folks who perfer to believe what the p-resident says rather than to research, think, or listen to other voices...
I am a "believer" but probably outside the boundaries that you have encountered
And I realize that for some I have just blasphemed ---

the problem is that it's CHRISTianity 30.Jun.2003 19:34


Christ supposedly (it's in the bible) said, "give unto Caesar what is Caesar's, but give unto God what is His" (more or less). Now, I have a pretty big issue with that. As far as I'm concerned, NOTHING belongs to "Caesar". That kind of "life-is-suffering-but-tommorow-will-bring-eternal-rewards-so-shut-up-pay-your-taxes-and-pray-for-forgiveness" stuff is just one of many "stumbling blocks" I find with the man, the book, and the theocracy. If you spend your life pondering the many mysteries (paradoxs) of the bible, you'll probably come up with some answers, but what good are they for ministry if they require a sword to be understood?

Don't get me wrong, though. I like the Marc Batko kind of christian, I just wonder which translation he has been reading.

give unto Ceasar 30.Jun.2003 23:23


There is nothing in the scripture you site (give unto Ceasar) that precludes your belief that nothing belongs to Ceasar.
I agree that it is difficult to understand ancient texts --- that is why modern translations and modern interpretations along with ministers who know how to make the connections to modern life are important.
While no one usually disputes the fact that an ancient text needs to be put into a living language, it is always curious how the text can be locked into another past time, I think of the King James translation which uses archaeic language and comes from a bygone era --- yet is THE bible for many people...
Hey who is Marc Batko?

Dear Mom, 01.Jul.2003 14:55


You say that nothing in the scripture I quoted precludes my belief that nothing belongs to caesar. Well, it is true that nothing ANYWHERE in the bible precludes what I believe, however, I was not refering to my view of the scripture, but by inference to the people involved with this thread.

The actual scripture cited is Matthew 22:15-22. In these verses a group of bad guys decides to trick Jesus into denying either the supremecy of God, or the power of Caesar (Rome, or more broadly, the state). The important part is that Jesus recognizes money as belonging to Caesar (the state), and hence makes it clear that one should pay Caesar (the state) pretty much anything he (it) asks for. I find this to be unacceptable, and if that logic is followed to it's conclusion, we are left with what I refered (childishly, I'll admit) to as "'life-is-suffering-but-tommorow-will-bring-eternal-rewards-so-shut-up-pay-your-taxes-and-pray-for-forgiveness' stuff". That could easily be extended beyond taxes to nearly all aspects of modern political/economic life.

It is my belief that nothing belongs to Caesar, or the state, because everything it owns is, one horrific way or another, stolen. I believe that I owe the state absolutely nothing, and only "give" when I have to, to stay out of prison. The scripture listed above, completely "precludes" such belief on the part of the christian. If one follows the teachings of Jesus, then one must recognize that, at the very least, currency is the property of those who mint it. Currency is purchased with nearly all types of material and abstract existence. Then Caesar must own everything, right?

Oh, and... 01.Jul.2003 15:05


Marc Batko is, among many other things, a freaquent contibutor to Indymedia. He translates all sorts of great stuff from Germman to English, is a christian, and generally great asset. There is a link to his site on Portland Indymedia, it's in the "media" section of Resources.

Dear FakeAnarchist 01.Jul.2003 22:48

to give or not to give (taxes)

I found your analysis interesting even though I would not come to the same conclusion. When taking a story from first century Palestine and transporting it into today there is a lot more work that I would consider. The bad guys who were trying to trap Jesus wanted to see what side of the nationalism debate he would come down on. Most Jews did not want to have Roman rule - and the taxes being wquestioned came from Rome. The men were not debating the temple taxes or what we could consider local taxes that went to pay for local issues like shelters and street lights... Jesus was not going to fall into the trap that would have set him up to defy Rome at that moment --- by looking at the coin and making his pronouncement he effectively said nothing --- although I agree with you that most right wing Christians would not agree as they use this passage among others to prop up the state.
If you take Jesus words and apply them to today, it becomes very hard for followers to pay federal taxes at all since the money goes to support activities that are clearly anti Christian, like war or union busting or lining the pockets of the rich....
Many radical Jesus followers pay taxes for the same reason you do --- to stay out of jail. Which of course was the reason Jesus said what he did... I am always awed by believers and others who can take the stand of not paying taxes --- or who go willingly to jail to stand up for truth and justice (which is not the american way ---sorry some old memory popped up here)
Thanks for the info on Marc Batko.


Jesus as Warrior 20.Jul.2003 10:16

Barbary Coast

I understand that more recent scholarship has tended to portray Jesus as closely connected to the revolutionary
uprisings against Rome typified by the Zealots. His movement was considered as subversive as it was spiritual .
This interpretation comes from a better understanding of Palestine as a time and a place in history thanks to work done on the Dead Sea scrolls and other 1st century scholarship done by writers such as RH Eisenman-Macabees, Zadokites, Chrstians and Qumran.