During a visit to Oxford my wife Sally went to a the Christian bookshop and came out with a book that is full of the theology for me. ‘When Clergymen Ruled the Earth‘ by Simon Jenkins is a book of cartoons based around church life, and particularly ministers/vicars.
I’ve been enjoying some of them this morning and one of them reminded me of an experience I had back in September, here it it is:
It depicts a scene that is very different to communion in most Baptist Churches, where traditionally the bread and wine is served to the congregation where they are seated in the pews.
The event that this cartoon reminded me of was my father’s ordination. In September he was ordained as a priest in the Church of England, and the service concluded with communion where the members of the congregation came forward (without the signs and traffic cones) to receive communion from those who are serving at the front.
I was sitting near the front of the church and it was served relatively early on. Once I had resumed my seat I was able to watch others as they came to receive the bread and wine. One man in particular caught my eye. He had serious mobility problems and was struggling even to walk to the front of the church. But he was determined that he was going to receive bread and wine so he made his way forward with the help of a friend. At the communion rail it was evident that he was going to struggle to kneel down and it seemed that his friend suggested he stand to receive the elements. He was having none of it. With a great deal of courage and obvious pain he knelt at the rail and held out his hands to receive the bread and then was served with the wine. It then took a considerable effort by the man and his friend to getting back onto his feet, and he struggled his way back to his pew.
I was seriously impressed by him. He was someone for whom receiving bread and wine was an important part of his life. He was not going to miss out under any circumstances, no matter what it cost him.
It made me reconsider how casually I sometimes come to receive bread and wine. I find communion one of the most moving parts of a church service, and gladly receive it with a sense of awe and wonder. But it doesn’t cost me anything and I wonder if that man appreciated what the bread and wine represent, the cost of Jesus’ sacrifice, much more because of how much it cost him to be there.
Do we sometimes make Jesus too accessible? I’ll leave that is something for you to consider…
Be blessed, be a blessing