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A Letter from Pastor Anita: More Than Just a Meal

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters.
And you who have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy!
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
 and your soul will delight in the richest fare.  Isaiah 55:1-2

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  But then think of what many of us eat for breakfast… caffeine… carbs… processed sugar… One has to wonder about the health aspects of our most important meal.  I would like to suggest that perhaps there is another meal that holds a more vital place in the life of those who follow Jesus- the Lord’s Supper.  John Calvin wrote that the two marks of the “true church” are: the Word rightly preached and the sacraments rightly administered.  Calvin thought that Word and sacrament were so intricately linked that he said the church should always celebrate the two in worship.  In his day, most Christians received the Lord’s Supper infrequently, often just a few times a year.  But in Calvin’s church in Switzerland, the Lord’s Supper was celebrated every week as the Word was preached.  That communion experience was a vital part of life in the faith.  Two years ago, Lenape Valley followed Calvin’s example offering the Lord’s Supper every week in our 11am service.  Gathering at the Lord’s Table is a vital part of the faith of Lenape Valley.  Take a moment with me to explore why the Lord’s Supper is so central to our faith experience.

Consider the first Lord’s Supper.  When Jesus sat with his disciples, they were celebrating the Passover meal, a ritual that had been passed down from generation to generation for over a thousand years.  In the Old Testament law, the people were commanded to keep the Passover celebration every year.  That retelling of God’s saving work in the life of the people of Israel reminded them of God’s faithfulness in the past, that promised God’s faithfulness for the present and the future.  When Jesus shared the Passover with his disciples that night, he redefined the meal- “This is my body broken for you… This cup is the new covenant sealed in my blood.”  Suddenly, this meal was not just about God saving His people from slavery in Egypt.  From this point forward, this meal would remind the people of Jesus’ saving work on the cross, freeing us from the slavery of sin.  At the end of the meal, Jesus told them to “do this in remembrance of me.”  That “remembrance” is not just the retelling of a past event, but the claiming of Jesus’ present work of grace in our lives that gives us a hope and a future.
Since that night, when Jesus sat with his disciples, the Lord’s Supper has been the place where the people of God have gathered.  Jesus tells us, “People will gather from east and west and north and south to take their place at the feast in the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 13:29) Here at Lenape Valley, we understand the importance of gathering at the feast.

We are a people defined by our eating events… pancake breakfasts, pasta dinners, Mother-Daughter banquets, Men’s breakfasts, turkey dinners, and of course our weekly ritual of coffee hour.  Then COVID hit and all eating events stopped.  No pasta… no pancakes… no coffee.  No coffee??? How do we go on?  We love those moments shared at the table, talking, tasting, enjoying life together.  We have formed a strong fellowship through those moments around the table.  But the most important feast in our community life has been the Lord’s Supper.  There at that table we are the people of God filled with the very presence of Jesus himself, a presence that heals and strengthens us for the journey.

You may be wondering, if this meal is so central to the life and witness of the Christian community, why did we cancel the celebration of the Lord’s Supper in July?  In all honesty, we had not figured out how to gather our people around the table safely in this new COVID reality.  When we shut down in March, it was easy to guide our people in their home settings through the Lord’s Supper, asking you to find your own bread and cup, sharing it with people who are a part of your family unity.  We offered communion supplies and many came to pick up pre-packaged communion.  But most of our faith community used their own home supplies to create the feast.  We celebrated together each month in our Father’s house that we have discovered has many rooms.

      But, when we re-opened our worship, we had the challenge of both online and in-person community at the Table.  How do we serve the supper in-person safely in this COVID reality?  We paused to allow our leaders to consider that question and to explore how other churches were serving the sacrament.  After many conversations, we have decided to move forward with celebrating the Lord’s Supper online and in-person with new protocols.  We will offer pick-up times for people to get communion supplies for their home celebrations. Those who come to worship in-person will be offered individually wrapped communion packs as they enter… but people are also welcome to BYOC- bring your own communion to church.  When the time comes to share the meal, our masks will come down- how symbolic of the face to face encounter we are offered at the Table.  Together, at home and in-person, we will share the feast of the Lord!

      Last week, one of the great civil rights leaders in our country died.  John Lewis has been a voice in our country for peaceful change since his days marching with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Often he would remind people of King’s prophetic dream: “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.”  Every time we gather at the Lord’s Table we sit at that family table, united with a community that is vast and diverse, a community bonded together in faith.  At that Table, all are welcome, all are filled, all are sent to be God’s instruments of healing in a broken world.  I look forward to sharing the Lord’s Supper with you Sunday as God prepares us to be his instruments of grace in the world God so loves.

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