Reflections to start the week
Monday, April 21, 2014
One of the great privileges in my life: to administer communion, giving out bread or wine as the people of God receive the gifts of God. Whether I’m standing at the rail in a grand worship space, or moving from wheelchair to wheelchair in a nursing home activity room, or bending over to give communion to a toddler, or serving bedside in a hospital room, whether I know the people well or not at all, I find it an honor to connect with people in this sacramental moment.
When I was considering ordination, a wise counselor advised me to read the ordination service in the Prayer Book and see if anything grabbed me in the way that liturgy was shaped. I remember being moved by a question which was asked of the candidate for ordination: Will you nourish God’s people from the riches of God’s grace? It seemed to me that is what we do when we come to communion: We are nourished by God’s grace. The priest or whoever is giving the bread and wine is simply an instrument. That’s probably true of all ministry in the world, all the good we do, but to me it seems clearest as the bread is placed in open hands, as the wine is received.
Many if not most of the people who receive communion respond to the bread placed in palms by saying: Amen. But I remember one parishioner, a wonderful older woman who grew up in the mountains of Virginia and brought the softest, most beautiful accent with her from that region. Her voice was deep and each word was extenuated. On Sundays, as I moved down the altar rail handing out bread she would not say “Amen”. Instead, she would say yes, which in her rendering of that word ending up with about four syllables. Her one word response to the bread placed in palm was one of the most elegant and eloquent (not to mention succinct) sermons I’ve ever heard. It spoke volumes to me about how we are to respond to God’s grace in our lives. We are called to say yes, in word and action, with our lips and with our lives.
Easter is God’s yes to us. As we move into the second day of the Easter season, we are called to give thanks and praise, we are called to alleluias, which have been on mute since Ash Wednesday. But I believe we are also called to say yes in return, yes to the new life, the resurrected life that God holds for us. That life comes as gift. But a gift, a grace only has meaning if we accept it and apply it. Abraham could have turned down the call to take his leap of faith. Moses could have taken a look at the burning bush and kept on going. Mary could have responded to the annunciation by saying “no thanks”. Peter could have kept fishing. Paul could have imagined that the Damascus road experience was a hallucination or projection. Each of them said “yes”, and that response not only changed their lives. That response changed the world. That can still happen.
What is God calling you to do and to be on this first Monday in the season of Easter? Can you experience this season as God’s emphatic “yes”? Can you pass on the grace of God, be an instrument of that grace in someone’s life? How will you say yes to the new thing, the new life God holds out for you?
- Jay Sidebotham
|I don’t know who, or what, put the question. I don’t know when it was put. I don’t even remember anwering. But at some moment I did answer “Yes” to Someone, or Something and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.
For all that has been, thank you. For all that is to come, yes!
As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been ‘Yes and No.’ For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you … was not ‘Yes and No’; but in him it is always ‘Yes.’ For in him every one of God’s promises is a ‘Yes.’ For this reason it is through him that we say the ‘Amen’, to the glory of God.
II Corinthians 1:18-21
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.