Dear friends in Christ,
In my sermon on Reformation Sunday, October 25, I spoke about how the good news of God’s love and grace in Jesus Christ surprises us and sets us free. I talked about how that needs to continue happening; we need to experience this liberation ourselves in order to share with other people how the good news changes lives. It’s something you need to know personally, not just objectively. Grace as an object, a thing we talk about, separate and observable, doesn’t change lives. Grace from one person to another, active, connecting, moving, flowing—that’s what changes lives.
I talked about this, but then I was surprised (to the point of tears) to experience it myself later in the service. I had been wondering for a while now why Communion had felt weird. For a while I thought it was the different way we are doing Communion for the time being; pre-packaged cups, no personal moment handing each person the bread, plus it’s over in just a few minutes. We added music; I remembered to say “The gifts of God for the people of God,” which helped, but it still felt weird. I wondered if perhaps we were simply out of practice.
Then one day, it hit me, as Bonnie O’Dell and I were chatting on the phone about someone who was interested in coming to church at St. Peter’s. We were discussing Communion and Bonnie said, “Well, you know, it’s not our table, it’s God’s table.” And it hit me like a lightning bolt. I had not been inviting you all to the table in the same language that I normally do, where I make it very clear that the table doesn’t belong to me, or St. Peter’s, or the ELCA, or the Lutheran tradition in general—it belongs to God, and that is why everyone is welcome.
So Reformation Sunday was the first Sunday I remembered to use those words—and clumsily adapted them, since we are symbolically “coming to the table” even while we remain in our seats. And I felt that liberating presence of the grace of God pierce my heart once again, and I couldn’t help but shed a few tears. Because it felt like Communion was finally BACK again. Even under layers of plastic wrap, sitting in hands thoroughly sanitized, and even though you each picked it up for yourselves as you came in, it now really felt like Communion. The meal of grace and forgiveness and salvation for everyone, period.
Maybe you’ve had moments like this during the last eight months that reminded you of who we are and what is most important to us. I hope you have seen and felt and experienced the grace of God in a way that pierced your heart and set you free all over again, and if not, I hope and pray that you experience that in your own lives. Because this is the kind of thing that has the power to keep us going, to light our fires, and to remind us that “God is [still] our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46)
Together in Christ,