Monday, November 23, 2020

Now and Not Yet


The Last Sunday after Pentecost

This final Sunday of the Church Year is celebrated as Christ the King Sunday.  Having spent the previous fifty-one weeks working through the Salvation story of Jesus’ life and teachings, today we affirm the reign of Christ over all creation.  In a very real sense we sense the Kingdom is now and not yet, already here but not in fullness.  We live into it by faith even though we don’t always see it with our eyes or experience it in our world.

Every day this past week has brought new news of Covid vaccines with promising results.  Like the Kingdom, there is a now and not yet feel to it.  I sense in myself resistance to hoping one day all this will be over – no masks, no distancing, no bubble, no fear.  It just doesn’t seem possible.  And it feels especially remote today as we have suspended in-person worship at St. Paul’s after only two weeks and as we prepare for a largely isolated Thanksgiving Day.  Still, one day this pandemic will be over just as surely as one day Christ the King will reign in fullness. 

The pandemic has changed us and reshaped us in ways we don’t fully recognize.  Our lives have new patterns and routines and what at first was imposed as restrictions has now become habitual.  When all of this is over I wonder what it will take to jump start St. Paul’s and, frankly, I wonder what it will take to jump start me.  I think it will take time and the end of the pandemic will be less like crossing the finish line at the end of a marathon and more like how a heavy fog slowly burns off over the course of a day.  I suspect we are in for a gradual reentry, both as a parish and as a society.

In the meantime, this morning we begin something new at St. Paul’s.  This will be our last spiritual communion.  I will be consecrating enough bread and wine for us to create “Communion-to-Go” bags.  If you contact the Church Office and make a reservation before noon on Friday, we will have a bag with the number of consecrated wafers and our best guess at the necessary amount of consecrated wine your household will need for the following Sunday’s service.   Pick up time in the church parking lot runs each Sunday from 11:00 to noon.  Then, on the next Sunday, as you participate in the live-stream, you will be able to receive communion in your home during the service.  Each to-go bag has a set of instructions detailing how properly to store to store the consecrated elements during the week, how to prepare them for administration, and how to carry out the ablutions (or cleaning) after receiving.  If you cannot get here on Sunday morning, come by during the week between 10:00 and 12:00 and we will have a bag ready for you.

Our bishop has authorized this possibility during these unprecedented times and my hope is it will provide us with spiritual nourishment and deeper sense of community.  Her key directive is what is consecrated on Sunday must be distributed over the course of the week and consumed in homes during our live-stream service on the following Sunday.  While it may sound complicated, I think it will feel pretty natural in just a few weeks.  For individuals as well as families it calls on you to consider how you will make an ‘altar’ in your home.  What can you do to make your experience as reverent and holy as possible?  Al suggests during Advent you place the bag in the middle of your home Advent wreath - the place normally occupied by the “Christ Candle” can now be a place of tabernacle for Christ’s Body and Blood.

Now, and not yet.  Communion-to-Go at home will not take the place of communion as an act of public worship here at St. Paul’s, but it is far superior to no communion at all.  And, in truth, communion as an act of public worship is itself only foretaste of the heavenly banquet hosted by Christ the King we one day will enjoy.   Here, but not in fullness.  We people of faith carry a vision of what we know will be.  We work for it.  We pray for it.  We give to it.  And when things beyond our control thwart what we normally do, we continue to believe God is still present and creating new ways to connect with us.  I can’t wait for the First Sunday of Advent when each of us - in a setting unlike any ever before - will be able to participate in the early and ancient practice of the Church; receiving Christ into our very bodies as we partake again of the Body and Blood of our Savior.