Dear Salem Family,
When I was a child—a long, long time ago—meal time was a big deal at our house. My father worked in a factory about half an hour away from our house, with a shift that started at 7:00 a.m., and that meant that every weekday morning my brother and I would get up at 5:30 so we could all sit down to breakfast as a family. I can’t tell you anything specific about any one of those hundreds of breakfasts, but I can remember the feeling of togetherness as we sat around the table and talked, or listened to the morning news and farm report on WCUB radio. (For you younger folks, radio was sort of like TV without the picture…)
It was as the breakfast table that I first heard “Hound Dog” and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” …and where I first heard my Mom complain about modern music. It was at the breakfast table that we would talk about school, or work, or the plans for the upcoming weekend. It was at the breakfast table where stories about our family history would sometimes be shared. Sadly, and in retrospect, it was at the breakfast table that we watched our Dad setting up his heart attack—loading up on eggs, bacon, and a special treat where he would pour Karo syrup on his plate and then sop it up with bread.
Dad would get home at 4:30 in the afternoon, which meant that dinner was always on the table by 5:00 and, again, it was a family affair. There were no excuses for not being there—well, that’s not strictly true: I think I got a pass from dinner when I was hospitalized to have my tonsils out, but hospitalization would be the only excuse. It was important to have dinner at 5:00, so that Dad could be in his easy chair by 5:30 to watch Walter Cronkite’s CBS News…until he fell asleep about midway through the first block.
Why am I sharing this with you? Because meal time is a big deal at our house, too. Once a month, we have the opportunity to come together in worship and celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion, or the Lord’s Supper—or even the Eucharist, if you want to be really fancy—but they all point to the same thing: that time when we come forward as a body to receive the bread and juice of communion. In the United Methodist tradition, Communion is a sacrament—a means of grace, given to us by God, that works within us to enliven and strengthen our faith and our unity with one another. On those days when I think about it, I am awestruck by the idea that in this one simple act of coming to a common table—just like any other family—we are united with all manner of Christians throughout the world and throughout time, from the very first sharing of the Lord’s Supper to now…and beyond.
That’s why I wanted to invite you to come to the table on May 6, and on the first Sunday of the month throughout the summer. It’s easy to kind of forget about it, to just sort of dismiss it as that thing we do once a month, but it’s really so much more than that. When we consciously come together at the common table of Communion, we are coming together as a family of all Christians. Like any family, there can be discord and disagreement—but all that stops, at least for awhile, when we come to the table and remember the love and history that binds us together.
Starting in May, you will notice a small difference in the way Communion is done. Where we had been practicing Communion by intinction—dipping the bread in the juice—we will now be celebrating our meal together by taking the bread and then taking the juice in individual cups. There is no great theological revelation behind this change, but we feel it will help to make some people more comfortable with sharing the meal with their brothers and sisters, and in times when cold and flu are working their way through the congregation, it will help us to not share them with one another. Sharing is not always caring!
When we pray over the table, we pray that the bread and juice we are about to share will make us “one with Christ, one with each other, and one in service to all the world.” I really hope as we go into a time of year when our activities tend to take us away from the church, you will make a point of finding time to come to worship and share the table on Communion Sunday, as a way of remembering who we are and what we’re called to be in this world, in service to one another and to our neighbors.
See you in church!
(Earlier A Word from the Pastor messages may be found in Newsletters.)