One of the most challenging questions with which I had to wrestle in discerning and testing the call to ordained ministry in South Africa was how I knew that I was called to be a minister of both Word and Sacrament. At eighteen, that seemed an impossible question to answer but it certainly started me on a deep and meaningful journey into what significance the rituals of baptism and holy communion have in our relationship with God, with one another, and with the world around us.
These simple lines in the Basis of Union are some of my favourites:
The Church lives between the time of Christ’s death and resurrection and the final consummation of all things which Christ will bring; the Church is a pilgrim people, always on the way towards a promised goal; here the Church does not have a continuing city but seeks one to come.
On the way, Christ feeds the Church with Word and Sacraments, and it has the gift of the Spirit in order that it may not lose the way.
Uniting Church in Australia, Basis of Union, Paragraph 3
One of the aspects of community life that I have most missed during this time of self-isolation and social distancing is the open table around which we gather – from such different circumstances – as brothers and sisters in Christ to acknowledge our need, to receive the free and lavish grace of God, to honour the invisible bond that connects us beyond time and place with the Church Universal, and to envision our role in making Christ present to the world which he loves.
All of this in a broken loaf and a shared cup!
As I share this photo today, I wonder:
what are you missing most of your Christian community?
what is sustaining you on the way?
how have you encountered signs of God’s grace in different ways?
Amongst all the necessary COVID-9 restrictions, what I am really missing in my spiritual life is gathering around the table to partake in Holy Communion with my fellow worshippers. I am not alone in feeling this special sense of loss, which is not quenched by my taking part in online worship with the 5pm Pilgrim community.
In response to many requests, the Assembly of the Uniting Church Standing Committee has conversed, prayed, and decided that Uniting Church congregations may choose to include Holy Communion in their online services during the period of restrictions. The Wagga Wagga Church Council and our ministers Janice and Yvonne are currently discerning whether to offer this sacrament as part of our online services.
To provide hope and comfort for these uncertain times of separation, Rev Amelia Koh-Butler has written the beautiful Liturgy of Empty Hands. The empty plate reminds us that Christ is the bread of life and satisfies our hungry hearts, and the empty cup reminds us that Christ is the cup of hope who revives our thirst. In our empty hands we faithfully celebrate the empty tomb and in hope we look to new life and new meanings.
When I took this photo of the birdbath and the leaves I thought of this image of empty hands. The bath is half empty because the magpies have drunk, plunged in with joy and flown off to shake their feathers dry. The autumn leaves are falling into it as the days pass.
From their past experience, the birds trust that I will refill the bath with clean water so it is ready for the next time they want a drink or a wash, whether in times of drought, or of plenty.
So it is for us – in faith we trust that our Creator, Redeemer and Spirit will continue to nourish us and inspire us to care for our hurting world.
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.