Pastor’s Friday Comments (10.02.20)

This Sunday is known in Christian worship as World Communion Sunday. The first Sunday in October is celebrated by many Church traditions as a day when we can acknowledge our union with one another through our shared commitment to Jesus Christ. Though we may celebrate in different ways and even have varying interpretations of the meaning of this rite, we can agree that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.

This year’s celebration will be different from any within our lifetime – although I imagine there were similar considerations during the 1919 “Spanish flu” and the Black Plague of the Dark Ages.

Those groups that feel participation in the Lord’s Supper is essential for full membership in the Church have a critical need to celebrate safely in the midst of a global pandemic. The use of a common cup to receive the wine by mouth is always risky, but right now it is simply dangerous. Intinction, according to health officials, is even worse. Even the Baptist way of passing plates carries obvious risks of infection.

At Parkway, as part of the Free Church tradition, we have been able to decide on our own when we would celebrate this critical and most meaningful ordinance. A few years ago, recognizing that we were probably not celebrating the Lord’s Supper often enough, I scheduled Communion at least once a month, usually on the first Sunday, but varying according to its inclusion in special services.

As you know, this Sunday we will be offering an outdoor worship service at 10 a.m. We will not participate in an actual Lord’s Supper as part of that service. It will be included in the virtual service used by those who are not able to or not comfortable with attending the outdoor service.

This does give me a chance, however, to draw attention to the true meaning of Communion. For those who are Protestants, the bread and juice represent the body and blood of Christ. They do not actually become the body and blood. Regardless of what you believe, Communion is a reminder of a greater truth. We are joined with one another in a mystical union with Christ through our shared faith and commitment. By our belief and acceptance of Christ’s Spirit, he dwells within each of us and in all of us collectively as his body on earth. We do not have to participate in a prescribed ritual, as meaningful as that may be, in order to be reminded of that.

Our simply coming together this Sunday after so many months apart will be reminder enough. Though we may have experienced Christ’s presence in our individual devotions and in our participation in the virtual worship services, there will be a more tangible reminder of how we are connected to one another and to Christ when we see each other’s faces and sit in (somewhat) close proximity to each other. Even those who are at home, knowing that some of us are gathering, should feel a closeness that we have not experienced in a while.

At least that is what I am praying for. I know this service, without singing and without physical hugs of one another, will be a less than satisfactory substitute for our regular worship, but I honestly believe that it is the best way for us to get together without placing anyone in unnecessary danger.

Like many of you, because of my faith in God, I am not afraid to die, but I am very afraid of killing someone else. It would be devastating to me to think that by some careless action of my own I became infected, even if it were without symptoms, and then infected someone else who faced serious illness or even death. We need to take the on-going threat of the pandemic seriously while doing everything we can to maintain our connection with one another and our faithful service to our Lord. Thank you for both your understanding and your willingness to avail yourself of whatever creative offerings we can conceive.