I believe this is from the summer of 2007. I still love Vonnegut. I don’t know how he’d feel, as an atheist, about me using some of his writing in a communion meditation. My impression of him, as with most atheists that I know, is that he didn’t have a problem with Christians when they were sharing bread and juice and remembering that God loves them. However, I think that when they are shouting down foreign children and homosexuals, or dropping bombs and shooting bullets in the name of that God, he would have thought little of that. With him on that point, I agree.
During communion we generally like to remember what Christ did for us of the cross. Recently I came across an interesting take on this in a book called Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut.
A couple months ago Kurt Vonnegut died. Vonnegut was one of my favorite authors. We share a birthday. I’ve read a dozen or so of his books, many of those one right after the other. Vonnegut wrote mostly, I think, about humanity trying to find our way. His most famous book is Slaughterhouse Five. It’s a fictional story set in around the nonfictional fire-bombing of Dresden, Germany during World War II. It’s an interesting and strange and great little book. After he died, I reread it, and came across this passage which I’ve abridged.
In this passage, one of the characters is reading a science fiction novel.
It was about a visitor from outer space. The visitor from outer space made a serious study of Christianity.
The visitor from outer space made a gift to Earth of a new Gospel. In it, Jesus really was a nobody, and a pain in the neck to a lot of people with better connections than he had. He still got to say all the lovely and puzzling things he said in the other Gospels.
So the people amused themselves one day by nailing him to a cross and planting the cross in the ground. There couldn’t possibly be any repercussions, the lynchers thought. The reader would have to think that, too, since the new Gospel hammered home again and again what a nobody Jesus was.
And then, just before the nobody died, the heavens opened up, and there was thunder and lightning. the voice of God came crashing down. He told the people that he was adopting the bum as his son, giving him the full powers and privilege of The Son of the Creator of the Universe throughout all eternity.
What I think Vonnegut and his aliens hit on in this passage is just what God has done for us. Us nobodies and pains in the neck. For us Christ was nailed to a cross and the cross planted in the ground. And because of that, instead of getting what we deserve, we are the bums that God has adopted as his sons and daughters, sons and daughters of the creator of the universe throughout all eternity. For some of us, when that adoption happened, it was as if the heavens opened up, and thunder and lightning and the voice of God came crashing down; for others it was a quieter experience, although no less dramatic.
Whatever your experience, this time with the bread and the cup gives us the opportunity to remember what been for us, and remind us to take Christ out into the world to the other bums and nobodies and pains in the neck.