The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher

When my first, very small book, was published, I had to learn that not everyone would like the book. People had different reasons; from dislike and disagreement to indifference. However, you soon learn and have to accept that if you put your personal thoughts into print and make it public you have willingly opened yourself to other people’s response and opinions. You also have to remember that people are speaking about what they have read and the content of the book, not about YOU or who you are as a spouse, parent, friend etc.

I say this because as I read this book for  review for Thomas Nelson I knew it would be a very unfavorable review. What I am going to say is about the content of the book, not about the person.

This book is the authors experience and reflection on Holy Communion. It is almost a spiritual journal.

The problem is that it is theologically awful. Her understanding of God the Father, Jesus Christ, Communion and the gospel cannot be called historic Christianity. It is not what scripture teaches on these issues.

As a Priest in the Episcopal Church I really cannot endorse the views in this book.

Gallagher’s view of Communion is something “devised cleverly by and for human beings, to help us get in touch with the Holy.”

Devised by human beings? I think not. Communion and it’s practice comes from God himself, Jesus Christ, God as a human being, illustrating to his disciples the night before his death the significance of what is about to happen, and for this reason we are to remember it.

Gallagher’s view is that Jesus’ words, “Do this in remembrance of me” was meant to be taken “by the disciples and everyone who came after him to remember what they had together. What they made together. What it meant to be together.”

No, that is not what it means. The words are not meant to be a call to the benefit of community. It is about the sacrifice of Christ for the sins of the world; by the breaking of his body and shedding of his blood to free us from the dominion of sin.

More worrisome is her assertion about sin. She says that there is “too much focus on personal sin and especially sin having to do with sex… Sin has to be about larger matters, Jesus didn’t spend a lot of time talking about personal conduct (obey the commandments was his general rule); his teachings were more about justice.”

I am sorry, but the Sermon on the Mount is about personal conduct. Matthew 19 is about how we act with others and conflict resolution. There are so many more examples, but I’ll stop there.

Finally, I believe Gallagher’s view of who can take communion is unbiblical. She says that “Communion is so important to me that I don’t think there should be rules about who can take it and who cannot… [And then, speaking in terms of feeding people in a soup kitchen where no questions are asked about who the person is or what they have done before they are fed she says] “It was not up to us to ask questions and be the judges of who should be fed. And this is true for communion as well. Jesus practiced a radical faith: everyone was welcome at his table.”

Really? Really? Yet scripture says “for the one who eats [the bread] and drinks [the cup] without careful regard for the body eats and drinks judgment against himself” (1 Corinthians 11:29).

There is a complete lack of the gospel message in this book. Jesus, Gallagher asserts, is a person of compassion, acceptance and the upholder of justice – which is true. But there is no mention of the other side of Jesus’ message – that people MUST repent or experience darkness and the gnashing of teeth. This Jesus says that one not dressed correctly for the wedding banquet will be thrown out. If you are unprepared, like the 5 unwise virgins, you will not be known by Jesus. The point of Jesus’ ministry – of the incarnation – is to show people that they are trapped in sin, in a darkness which will destroy them –  but there is good news. If people repent, turn to Christ, confess their sins, and give their entire lives to Jesus they will find the love and reconciliation of the Father in Heaven and the promise of eternal life.

I do not recommend this book.

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