Here’s a question: PART I – Is this communion?
In this picture (to the right) Tom – my brother-in-law, is serving the bread and the wine to Faith – his daughter. Ed, who is watching Tom, had just been served by his wife – Rebekah’s cousin Zandra.
We came together for worship as a family (various Alexanders and sundry Perkins’s), as a family of believers (various Presbyterians and sundry Methodists and an assortment of other blends and flavors), and as an extended human family representing at least three continents.
Rebekah gave the message, and her brother Jesse served communion; they are both ordained Presbyterian ministers serving churches in Florida. Jesse, Micah and I led the singing. And Anthony Perkins, who is a commissioned lay-minister in the Methodist Church, gave the benediction.
Coming together as a worshipping community is always a meaningful occasion, and I especially look forward to the first Sunday of every month, when we celebrate communion together at First Presbyterian in Brandon. But when your extended family is also the family of believers… and when the church family is also your family of brothers and sisters and cousins… then something exponential happens in terms of what it means to break bread together.
And so – PART II – is thiscommunion? The picture I’m referencing here is the melee of covered dish lunch after church! Cousins elbowing and laughing and serving one-another from the shared table. For the adults, just watching this part of the feast conjured memories of gatherings past – and isn’t communion all about remembering?
This we did in remembrance not only of Jesus, who first offered the bread and the wine, but in memory of Nell Perkins Alexander – Rebekah’s mama, who died just a short while after the big family gathering at St Mary’s in 1999… and of Bob Alexander – Rebekah’s dad, who departed this life just two weeks prior to Naomi’s marriage to Craig in 2007… and of Al Perkins, and Grandaddy Albert and Grand-May….
And we shared communion in the bread and the wine and the squash and the chicken and the potato salad and the tomatoes….
Or – PART III – is thiscommunion? One more big family portrait. But Naomi and Craig were still on the road from Connecticut… and Andrew was at his home in Tuscany… and Rebekah’s brother Roy and his wife, Lynda, were worshipping with the church where Lynda was recently appointed as music director… and the Jesse Perkins family were already back in Sylvania… and Zandra’s brother, Albert, insisted he needed to be with his cows in Newington….
But family gatherings without some of the family are communion just the same.Because we acknowledge the communion of the saints – and that doesn’t just include the “dear departed” but the reticent, and the recalcitrant, and the traveler, and the ex-patriot, and the lost, and the angry, and the sick, and the tired, and the distracted, and the hurt, and the estranged, and those who want to be there but simply can’t….
Preach it, Rebekah! “He (and she) has God’s mark on him,” Rebekah said as she preached her way through Genesis, all the way from the beginning, where God said “this is good” to the reunion of Joseph with his long-lost family, where it was good once again.
She was referring to the fact that God’s love, and care, and purpose for us far out-reaches the temporary detours we often take. God is faithful and God’s promise is – like the Covenant with Abraham – new every morning and to every generation. Things in the Genesis story became “good” again only when Joseph lived his life in the truth of that bountiful promise.
The answer, of course, to the communion question, “Is this communion, or is thiscommunion, or is this communion….?” is – “YES”!
“For where two or three are gathered in my name,” Jesus said, “I am there among them.” And, believe me, Jesus was there last Sunday morning, and it means so much to be a member of that kind of a family.