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A Fraction of the Truth


I am dyslexic.  And not just a little.  I am blessed with one of those odd brains that seems perpetually baffled by such complex issues as which direction an "S" is supposed to face; or which is right versus left.  Yes, I've heard the old tried and true solution: "Now, make your thumbs and index fingers into the Letter L and then look down and see which Letter L is correct [left hand] and which is backwards [right hand]."  OK people, this doesn't help.  Both L's look perfectly fine to me.

Like other dyslexics, mathematics was not a high point in my education.  
I felt as though being given a  D in algebra was an example of wholly unearned grace from a merciful teacher granted unto the worst of sinners.  (Oddly, I found geometry incredibly easy.  Who knows why?)

Among the many perplexities of math is the challenge of multiplying fractions.  To multiply a fraction, one must (1) Multiply the numerators of the fractions; (2) Multiply the denominators of the fractions; (3) Place the product of the numerators over the product of the denominators; (4) Then simplify the fraction.  Simplify?  Yeah, right.  Here's how to simplify: I pick up the phone and call my wife.

In worship, the word fraction means something else.  Fraction is from the Latin frangere.  It means "to break apart."  Jesus took the bread, and gave thanks for it, then He broke it and then distributed the broken portions to the disciples (Mat 26:26; Mk 14:22; Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24).  In the vocabulary of worship, the "fraction" refers to that moment in worship when someone literally breaks apart the loaf of bread, dividing it into two or more pieces.

It may be with this image in mind that Paul writes, "Because there is [as communion starts] one loaf, so we, who are many, are one body. (1 Cor 10:17)"  The ancient church would have watched the whole loaf being torn and broken into pieces.  In seeing that, they saw an image of the scattered people of God made whole and united before Him (Didache 9).

Of course, there is irony in this idea: breaking something in order to emphasize its wholeness.  Of course, it is no less ironic to suggest the physical body of Christ Jesus, by being torn and broken upon the cross, is the means through which God brings the shattered fragments of humanity into one new man in Christ.  In that flesh-tearing violence we find, at long last, the answer to the first question man raises unto God: "Am I my brother's keeper?"

The fraction becomes the visible metaphor of the whole.  Pieces of bread broken apart providing the means for the broken to gather at table as one.  One body in the breaking of one loaf.  -- one body, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and father of us all who is over all, and in all, and through all.

And, of course, in doing this, we "proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. (1 Cor 11:26)"  The breaking of bread also calling others to gather with us and break bread.  Now that, I would think, is the way to multiply fractions.


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