Discerning the body

Bodies get sick. What becomes of a church body when we enact unity at the table while ignoring our brokenness?

On a frigid night in march, a woman wanders through a crowd with a loaf of bread. She pauses before each person and tears at the crust. “The body of Christ for you,” she hums before zigzagging back into the throng of bodies packed into the parking lot.

We have gathered to protest the incarceration of migrants housed in a concrete industrial park in an isolated New Jersey suburb. It is Maundy Thursday, and we are sharing Eucharist in this strange and desolate sanctuary outside a for-profit detention center. Many of the people out here are the family members of those who have been arrested for overstaying visas, for their illegality. They’ve come from low-paying jobs, pushing strollers and carrying infants, some still in the uniforms of house cleaners and fast-food workers.

The police have been dispatched, with their weapons and badges, to protect the detention center from our worship. I notice that a few of the people serving the bread have approached the police, holding out the rough edge of Jesus’ body. Each officer politely refuses, hands at their sides and on alert for disturbances in the crowd.