Lent is a season which invites us to be much more intentionally introspective and reflective. For many, this translates as a time to make an accounting for every way we have come up short or everything that is wrong about us. Self-reflection and honest personal accounting can certainly be helpful and an important place to begin a journey toward the kinds of transformations God’s love and grace make possible in our lives. If we remain in this state, however, we thwart God’s gift of new life.
When you and I participate in the sacrament of Holy Communion, we (United Methodists) understand that to be “a means of God’s grace”; in many ways, a Holy Mystery for which we don’t offer a reasoned explanation, but personal testimony of God’s love and grace transforming our lives- maybe in small, but significant steps- and, for some, a completely life-altering new reality for living.
In his book, Keeping the Feast, Milton Brasher-Cunningham writes beautifully about the sacred nature of being with others at the table, which is where we are taking our theme for this season: At The Table.
He tells this story (which I have had to edit for length):
“I’ve had many great meals, but I think the best meal I ever had— and perhaps ever will— was at the Café Baraka… We each ordered an appetizer and, as they began to arrive one at a time, we realized two things: the chef was working alone and we were in for a long and wonderful evening. In a way we could never have planned, each dish became an exercise in sharing and an expression of community. As a new plate arrived, each diner tasted it and then passed it on to the next friend….When we wandered back out into the winter night some five hours later, I had been given the gift not only of a meal but also of a marker. There was life as I knew it before the Baraka Café and life after it…
Communion is the same kind of mile marker. When Paul talks about the meal, leaning hard into what was an already established ritual, he said to use it as a chance to clear the air, to get things straight, to make room for what is to come , what needs to be born. We are called to create a before and an after. Any meal that holds a sense of ritual offers that chance for repentance and renewal, or the chance to both start and end something. The sacramental meal of bread and wine is even more charged with possibilities. Whom do I need to forgive? Of whom do I need to ask forgiveness? Who needs to know they are not alone? Whom can I bring to the Table? And there are other questions. What has happened since the last time we were here? What new dreams do I have? What has been lost? Who has gone? Who has arrived? What hunger needs to be fed?
(Holy Communion) is a sign of connectedness and solidarity. We want to take our turn to mark the day, to remember …“who we are and Whose we are,” to come hungry and to go away fed, and to be reminded once more we are not alone.”
I hope you will immerse yourself entirely in this life-enriching season of Easter. Our theme is “At The Table” and we will be leaning heavily on images from Brasher-Cunningham’s beautiful book. Beginning with Ash Wednesday, through each weekly offering of worship focused on the various ways God’s grace finds its way into our being as we gather at the Communion table, and concluding with the poignant services of both Maundy Thursday and Good Friday- your full participation in this season promises to bring you to an experience of Easter’s joy in a profound way.
I look forward to journeying through this season of grace with you.