Monday, April 8, 2019

Serving Communion in the Dark

I was glad on Sunday morning when I realized that the rain had not started yet.

Sometime on Saturday afternoon, I started getting news reports about severe weather.  It was first scheduled to arrive in the middle of the night, then sometime early Sunday morning.  But when I got up on Sunday, the rain had not arrived yet.

I was pleasantly surprised.  It was going to be an important Sunday in church, not just the 5th Sunday in Lent.  We had important things to do.  Afterwards, we had scheduled a meeting of parents and youth planning activities for the coming year.  We have never had enough children and youth to plan activities before, and I did not want our planning meeting to be rained on.

I also had scheduled a home communion visit in the afternoon with a homebound couple from the church.

We made it through worship without any rain.  I won't lie:  it was a gloomy, threatening morning, but it didn't rain and we even made it through our youth planning meeting.  When I went back home it had just started to sprinkle.

I called the shut-ins and said I would be over after lunch, but that I would be keeping an eye on the weather.  They said they understood and would see me later.

It wasn't long after we finished eating that the wind came up, and the thunder started.  On my phone I saw that there was a tornado warning in the area.  Then, just a few minutes later, we heard a sound I had never heard before.  I thought perhaps sirens were going off, but it wasn't exactly like that, either.

It was over soon after that.

I called my shut ins.  I couldn't get through.  My husband said, you will just have to go over.  So I did.

When I got there I discovered that their power was out.  They were sitting in the dark, eating hamburgers that one of their daughters had brought them.  Even the stoplights were out on the neighboring streets.

It was still daylight outside, but inside the house it was more like twilight.  We visited for awhile about natural disasters:  tornadoes and earthquakes and hurricanes and blizzards -- all of the normal things.  Their daughter fretted about what would happen if the power did not come on, and said she would be back to check on them later, to make sure they got to the bedroom all right.   They kept re-assuring her that they would be all right.

Finally, I opened up my communion kit.  It was getting darker, and I wasn't sure how well I would be able to read the prayer book.  But just as I was pouring the wine, the husband got out the biggest flashlight I have ever seen and flashed it right at me.  I felt a little like I was in the spotlight.

I tried to hold the book under the light and read the words while he held the light in his hand.  I opened the Bible and read the gospel reading:  about Mary and the anointing oil she poured over Jesus' feet -- and we wondered together about that scandalous generosity.  I felt the light on the book as I tried to read the pages, and the light warm on my face, making me blink.  The light exposed some things and hid other things.

And when I got to the words of institution and I held up the wafer and the small cup to the light, somehow I felt like a player on a stage -- the darkness all around -- this moment in time, this act, illuminated.

The body of Christ given for you.  The blood of Christ shed for you.  In the darkness.

I watch the news and despair sometimes.  Of disasters natural and unnatural, preaching a gospel of chaos.  These are dark times, when it seems like we cannot see each other's faces, and know that we are made in the image of God.

And then the spotlight comes on in the darkness, as the oil is poured out on Jesus' feet.  The spotlight hits my face, and I realize that God is calling me to lift the cup, to break the bread, to say the words by which God reconciles the world.

The body of Christ given for you.  The blood of Christ shed for you -- and for all people.  In the darkness.

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