Sacrament - Monday Musing, May 2, 2022
Sacrament. The classic definition of a sacrament that the Church has embraced dates to the writings of Augustine of Hippo (354-430) who wrote, “A sacrament is an outward, visible sign of an inward, invisible grace of God.” Yesterday we celebrated the sacrament of communion in worship. This was the 24th time we celebrated communion since I began ministry in Orleans two years ago. Although we have been worshiping in-person for quite some time, our live-streaming has become a vital component of our ministry with more people attending worship online than in our sanctuary each week. COVID-19 necessitated the celebration of communion remotely, something that was unheard of prior to the pandemic.
In communion we recall the events of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples before the crucifixion. Jesus took ordinary things – bread and wine – and made them holy. In the invitation to communion, the liturgy says for us to “partake and share.” Share? COVID protocols have us using individually sealed communion elements that we pick-up on the way into the sanctuary. No one is tasting the bread I break or the cup I hold on the chancel. And while those participating online see us, we can’t see them, let alone our sharing anything with them. The pandemic has changed the way we celebrate, receive, and share communion.
Rachel Held Evans says that the purpose of the sacraments is to help us see, to point to the bread and wine, and say: “pay attention, this stuff matters; these things are holy.” If God is in the business of transforming ordinary things into holy things, should the institutional church withhold the sacrament because we are not receiving it the way we used to before the pandemic? I say no. We seek God’s presence and Spirit each and every time that we come to the table, and God’s mysterious grace comes in ways that help open our eyes to recognize the risen Christ – whether it is in our sanctuary, living room, or wherever we find ourselves at the table seeking God’s grace.
The celebration of communion triggers our memory, and it is necessary for us to share that outward, visible sign of God’s inward, invisible grace, regardless of where our table is located. The gifts of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. See you in church!