This coming Sunday, Palm Sunday, we will be offering holy communion as part of the liturgy. After good conversation among our Worship and Music Ministry Team, and then by Council, Pastor Josh and I are both grateful for their support of our recommended addition to our worship.
I’ll speak just for me. For the last twenty plus years Renee & I have looked forward to participating in communion on a weekly basis. My guess is that in that time period we’ve never gone longer than two weeks without receiving. It’s deeply meaningful to me, both as a presider but even moreso as a recipient.
Back in 1999, as part of the Pastor Candidacy process, in my final Approval Interview a question was asked about weekly communion. My response for being in favor of the practice included me saying something to the effect of, “Even if my sermon didn’t go over well, I know people will be touched by God’s grace through the sacrament.” On my approval panel was a seasoned pastor with a sharp wit. He retorted, “So you’re saying that Holy Communion is a good backup for a lousy sermon?” To which I replied, “Well I wouldn’t exactly use those words, but yes.” As promised by God and yet still mysterious to me, God’s grace comes to us through the bread and wine attached to God’s word and promise.
So back to offering to celebrate Holy Communion when we are not all physically gathered in the same place. I do this acknowledging the extraordinary circumstances that we are in. Physically separating to help protect our neighbors is the loving thing to do, and we may be asked to continue to do this for months to come. Yet even though we do not occupy the same physical worship space I do feel gathered with you on Sunday morning, much as we express that as we gather around the communion rail we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Saints like my father and mother in law who have gone before us, and those who will follow after us till Christ comes.
Some of you may be excited to receive communion this Sunday, others may feel some hesitation. Perhaps still others will choose to receive only once we are back together in the sanctuary. All three are ok by me. However, as part of the liturgy this Sunday and in the unknown number of Sundays to come, we will be offering Holy Communion. We would ask you to use the best and most representative elements that you are able from your home setting. Bread and wine would be at the top of the list, but grape juice and crackers are fine too. Do not make an unnecessary trip to the store. Know that our church teaches, and we believe, that Christ is fully present even when we receive only one element. Know that God honors a humble and contrite spirit. Know that God loves you, and we your pastors love you too. Do your best with what you have.
Unbeknownst to me was that my mother has been celebrating communion at home the last three years. Until we started using Facebook Live she would watch a Presbyterian worship on TV. She would prepare by gathering her small portion of wine and a cracker. After the presiding minister would offer the Words of Institution and pray the Lord’s Prayer, she would receive. It brought tears to my eyes knowing how meaningful and powerful the sacrament is to her that she would do this.
Please contact me at email@example.com or 843-304-5664 if you have any questions or concerns and would like to talk them through. We want this to be a meaningful addition to our worship service so please don’t hold back. God’s peace and hope, Pastor Jon