How does our faith matter when we gather around the communion table? In the Presbyterian Book of Order, we are told that when communion is served, it is appropriate for us to prepare for it. That is, to prepare ourselves for partaking of the meal our Savior has invited us to eat. Perhaps you do something in particular as you get yourself ready for communion – pray a prayer, read scripture, reflect on your week and patch up a relationship that needs mending, or share with a prayer partner something that is on your heart that might keep you from fully participating in the sacrament. Of course, even with these things not taken care of, you can still participate – God’s grace abounds. However, we are asked to be thoughtful about it. Here are the words from the Book of Order (W-2.4006): Around the Table of the Lord, God’s people are in communion with Christ and with all who belong to Christ. Reconciliation with Christ compels reconciliation with one another. All the baptized faithful are to be welcomed to the Table, and none shall be excluded because of race, sex, age, economic status, social class, handicapping condition, difference of culture or language, or any barrier created by human injustice. Coming to the Lord’s Table the faithful are actively to seek reconciliation in every instance of conflict or division between them and their neighbors. Each time they gather at the Table the believing community:
- are united with the Church in every place, and the whole Church is present;
- join with all the faithful in heaven and on earth in offering thanksgiving to the triune God;
- renew the vows taken at Baptism; and they commit themselves afresh to love and serve God, one another, and their neighbors in the world.
In many instances in the world, in our neighborhoods, cities, towns, offices, classrooms and homes, we cannot imagine this kind of reconciliation. Sometimes we cannot imagine it even in the church. Yet, we are called to it by the very One who invites us to the table. We are invited to ask: Where in my life is reconciliation needed? Is there someone with whom I need to be in touch, write a letter or, best, to speak face to face? (Texting, Facebook and email are not recommended in these instances.) Is there someone with whom I am estranged? There is a well-known hymn attributed to John Calvin, the father of the Presbyterian Faith. The hymn is, “I Greet Thee Who My Sure Redeemer Art.” It first showed up in the Genevan Psalter in 1545. The fourth stanza is fitting for our prayers. If you cannot bring yourself to offer reconciliation right now in a relationship or situation you find yourself, begin praying for it and perhaps this stanza of the hymn will serve as guidance:
Thou hast the true and perfect gentleness, No harshness hast thou and no bitterness: O grant to us the grace we find in thee, That we may dwell in perfect unity.
Rev. Anne C. Hébert