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  • Pastor Roy Stetler

Chat: Communion March 27, 2020

With our recent transition of services and group meetings to printed paper and online gatherings, we miss our weekly celebration of communion. The Question quickly arose, “Can we have online communion?” The answer grows out of the meaning and experience of communion.

Communion arose in the church--like the New Testament, like our understanding of Jesus’ death and resurrection—before there was official teaching on these. In the history of the church, practice has always come before theology. Communion began as a love feast—not just bread and wine (juice), but a whole meal. When some were unfairly excluded as some participated selfishly, apart from the love of Christ, the apostles began to think about what it meant and how the churches should practice it. From the beginning, Christ’s presence was keenly felt in communion in the love of sisters and brothers for one another as the gathered body of Christ. Communion is physical presence. Many churches will set apart consecrated bread and wine for members to carry to the homebound, those who are unable to attend the Gathering. But the beauty of that practice is that it carries with it the memory and presence of the gathered body.

We know that it is more life-giving to be in the very presence of family and friends than speaking by phone or online. The same is true for communion. In fact, so much so, that we do not practice “distance communion.” The resulting experience of non-presence renders Christ present in the bread and the cup as “not really present.”So, for the clarity of the experience of God with us in this particular space and time, we are holding off in the celebration of Holy Communion.

Our life in the Spirit is not cut off when we are physically removed from one another. Likewise, our life in the Spirit is not cut off when we cannot physically gather and celebrate the presence of our Lord in the body and blood, the bread and cup. Yes, we miss one another keenly and we miss the sacrament—the tangible presence of Christ. But clearly, Christ is just as present to us even when we cannot celebrate Communion. Christ is present without our gathering for worship and meetings. Jesus Christ is present within.

This time of “exile” from gathering is challenging us to focus on what else grow sour faith—trust, prayer, and contemplative reading (Scripture and other good books). Separation is reminding us to prayerfully listen and be present to the Spirit of Christ, eternal Love and Peace—regardless of what is going on around us or even within us. In fact, the more difficult the circumstances in which we find ourselves, the more our root in Love grows, and deepens, and gives sure hope. Peace in Christ, deeply rooted in Mercy, drawing us Godward. Prayerfully, Pastor Roy.

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