Divine Communion

A Eucharistic Theology of Sexual Intimacy

Jay Emerson Johnson

Oct/2013, 192 Pages, PAPERBACK, 6 x 9

ISBN-13: 9781596272521



  • First text to place sexual ethics in a sacramental/liturgical context
  • Designed to meet the General Convention mandate for “theological reflection” around issues of sexuality and marriage
  • Appropriate for study regardless of gender or orientation

Before Christian communities try to address sexual ethics, the more fundamental theological question demands attention: What can sexual intimacy tell us about God? This book invites reflection on sexual relationships within a broad theological framework marked by creation, fall, and redemption. These classical hallmarks of Christian faith are proclaimed and enacted at every liturgical celebration of the Eucharist, which offers a compelling way to engage the link between sexual intimacy and the longing for God, or the hoped-for promise of “divine communion.”

Jay Emerson Johnson teaches at the Pacific School of Religion and Graduate Theological Union, while serving as associate clergy at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Berkeley, CA. He is the author of Dancing with God: Anglican Christianity and the Practice of Hope and served as the chair of the theology task group for I Will Bless You and You Will Be A Blessing. He lives in Richmond, CA.

What do Christians want to say theologically about sexual intimacy? I do not mean to ask about whatever we might want properly to say and to do about sexual ethics, or the behavioral rules and institutional regulations that so many assume “ethics” to entail. I mean, rather, from a Christian perspective what is the theological and spiritual significance of sex? Would Christians offer the same response if asked about the theological significance of marriage? Do sex and marriage belong to a private realm of affectional intimacy only or do they also bear theologically on the Church’s witness to the Gospel in the world? . . . In more traditional language, these questions evoke an ancient quandary concerning the relationship between souls (the purely spiritual) and bodies (the resolutely physical). . . .

Christians present not just one of these but both at the Eucharistic Table. In some liturgical traditions Christians not only present both body and soul at the Table, but also offer them there as a “living sacrifice.” Offering our whole selves to the Eucharistic celebration prompts another ancient quandary concerning change and permanence. If only the soul endures beyond the body’s loss, what precisely about our bodily exaltations and fragilities do we wish to present with gratitude at the Table, where the Church memorializes the torture, suffering, and death of the body of Jesus? Do Christians prefer instead to reflect on bodily realities when proclaiming the promise of resurrection at that same Table? Which parts of our embodied lives do we leave behind in that Table’s foretaste of the heavenly life to come? . . .

This book offers a series of extended reflections on God. This book also and therefore offers a series of extended reflections on sex, or more precisely, on sexual intimacy. Reflecting on one leads organically to reflecting on the other. God and sex are closely intertwined and always have been, not least because the struggle to discern the meaning of human life has rarely strayed very far from the mysterious meaning of divine life. How God and sex interrelate has varied widely over many centuries, at times with rites of exuberant embrace and at others with exhortations to abstinence. Religious traditions may try to repress sexual desire or treat it with suspicion, but even then the bond between God and sex remains, though clearly troubled and contested. 
—from the Preface


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