Holy Week and Easter were unique, weren’t they? Many of you gathered around computer screens and/or smart-TV screens to follow the journey of Jesus. Our celebration of the Resurrection was quiet but the promise of New Life resounded loudly!
“When are we going to have Communion again?” We believe and teach that the Lord’s Supper is shared in community. While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to stay at a distance, we await the time when the CDC will allow us to join together without endangering anyone’s health. The sacrament is the community’s connection with the means of grace. It is an act to be shared in the gathered community, and celebrate by the ordained “for good order.”
“My friends (from another church) had communion via the internet.” Some pastors have decided that “virtual communion” is important for their members to “remember Jesus’ action.” Two issues arise. We believe that the risen Lord hosts the feast when the Body of Christ is gathered. The doctrine of “Real Presence” declares that Jesus is truly present “in, under, and through” the Bread and Wine. Placing a piece of bread and cup of wine on a computer keyboard does not magically make Jesus present. Secondly, the sacrament is not a “memorial meal.” We believe in the presence of Christ in the celebration of the Eucharist. We don’t simply “remember” what Jesus did. We join in his sacrifice and Christ’s call to receive God’s grace through the earthly elements of bread and wine.
If “virtual communion” is acceptable, could your dinner party on Saturday with friends and family share communion? Or, if you would like your baby baptized in your backyard pool, could that be “binding?” No. Martin Luther is clear that the sacraments are “rightly celebrated” by the ordained, or “set apart” persons tasked with the Office of Word and Sacrament.
What are we to do? The present sheltering-in-place is inconvenient, true. And our hunger for the means of grace continues to grow within us. True. And so we wait in anticipation. The time will come when we, the Body of Christ will gather again. Until that time, think Advent, we wait with hearts fixed upon God’s promise of mercy, freedom from the power of sin, death, and evil, and the promise to Life Eternal.
My encouragement for you this day is to wait faithfully, and patiently until the time that we can gather together, again. Surely the time is coming….