A video version of Message from the manse can be found here.
During my ordination at Shirley Methodist Church, I was asked if I believed that I was called to be ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament. It was something I firmly believed, and still believe, that I was called to by God to such a ministry and more.
So it is with a sadness that I have to tell you that we are not sharing in communion today, or on Easter Sunday or indeed until this pandemic is over, lockdown is over, social distancing is over and we are allowed once more to open our churches.
We are indeed at the moment a church without walls, we the people are the church, separate and yet together. United by loving God and being loved by God.
So let’s reflect a moment on communion. Communion is a gathering of people to remember Jesus as he commanded us “Do this to remember me”. The gathering together in one place is one of the most important things for me, and also for me that moment in the distribution of the bread to be able to look our good people in the eye and say to each one personally “The body of our Lord Jesus Christ given for you.” This is my opportunity to remind those that I have the privilege to serve, that God loves each and every one of them.
The Methodist Conference has 2 reports on our understanding of communion that you might like to read at some point whilst we are in lockdown, and I will post links to these in my blog, the first is called “His presence makes the feast” from 2003, and the second a report from the Faith and Order Committee to Conference 2018. The decision was that “the Conference adopt the policy that presbyters and other persons authorised to preside at the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper may not be permitted to use electronic means of communication, such as the internet or videoconferencing, in order to invite those not physically present at the celebration of the sacrament to participate by using their own communion bread and wine.”
We as a district have been considering what we do, and considering whether we could do something as our folk are currently deprived of communion. I did wonder about whether we could “perform” a communion service over the live stream and just Caroline and I share, but our chair of District (Ian) reflected back to me that this would just be exercising clerical privilege, and in reality our people would still be deprived of communion.
So I started to wonder if we should fast from communion at this time, then I came across this scripture:- Luke 5:33-35 (NRSVA) “The Question about Fasting – 33 Then they said to [Jesus] him, ‘John’s disciples, like the disciples of the Pharisees, frequently fast and pray, but your disciples eat and drink.’ 34 Jesus said to them, ‘You cannot make wedding-guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? 35 The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.’”
No, I’m not suggesting Jesus is no longer with us, he is alive indwelling within us through the holy spirit, but we are not able to partake of the “body” of Christ as a community, so I think it would be the right thing for all of us to fast from communion until this pandemic is over. Fasting will sharpen our minds, and give us something to look forward to when we are back together.
So what do we do to follow Jesus’ command “Do this in remembrance of me”. On Easter Sunday Angie is bringing us an Agape, it’s a traditional early Methodist celebration for a community that were not able to access communion locally, so we stand in solidarity with our Methodist brothers and sisters across the centuries and share in this love feast.
There is also a paper resource called “Spiritual Communion” which I will send out for you to reflect upon.
Also very simply, we can all everyday remember Jesus when we break or eat bread, and if you don’t eat bread, just remember Jesus everyday and give thanks whenever you eat and whenever you pray.
Lord help us in this time of fasting from communion, to remember that you love us dearly, help us also to remember you daily as we break bread or eat our food. Grant us some of your grace, strength, joy, hope, love and peace as we journey on towards the kingdom, even in this time of Pandemic. In Jesus name we ask this. Amen.