Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Book Review: The Sacred Meal

Nora Gallagher has a unique writing style. I enjoyed reading The Sacred Meal, and it definitely made me think. I agreed with some statements from every chapter, but at the start of each, I wondered if I would. Rather than state her point at the outset, Gallagher reminisces, moving from story to thought to another story, connections not always obvious until the end when she wraps it all up and, suddenly, her point is finally clear.

Though I liked her writing style and enjoyed her stories and found some statements in each chapter to embrace wholeheartedly, there were a few issues that greatly concerned me. Throughout the book, Gallagher refers to historical, human Jesus and seems to ignore the God Who came to save. In her chapter on the history of communion, she leaves out the biblical accounts of the Last Supper, of Jesus Himself giving us this sacrament. In fact, she compares communion to the Muslim’s Ramadan and the Jewish Seder saying that since all three faiths come from Abraham, they are bound to have common rituals. All three may involve food, but that doesn’t make them similar, historically or otherwise.

Further, Gallagher seems to define communion as something that unites people, that links them together with some mystic bond. That’s true, but only if we recognize Jesus as that bond. We are united as we remember His sacrifice, as we reflect on what He did for us on the cross, as we worship Him together with gratitude. Gallagher mentions being thankful, but there doesn’t seem to be any worship or recognition of Christ involved. At the end of one chapter, she suggests it doesn’t matter what we believe, but only how we live. I get the impression she believes we save ourselves by following Christ’s example, by living good lives, that we don’t really need him; He’s just a good life model to follow. This concerns me. How we live is important, true. But living the way God wants us to is only possible if we’ve accepted Christ as our Savior, if He lives in us.

The Sacred Meal is a thought-provoking book with some good ideas, but I hesitate to recommend it. If you do choose to read it, read the biblical accounts of the Last Supper first, be clear on what your church believes about Communion, and compare and contrast with other books and articles on the topic. I don’t think Gallagher should have the only word.

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