Every first Sunday of the month we celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion in our worship service. Have you ever noticed how, at the end of the invitation to the Sacrament, I say these words: “Come not because you must, but because you may.” These words are not original to me. They are part of a Communion Liturgy that was programmed into my soul as a congregant of my home church a long time ago.
When I first heard these words, Come not because you must, but because you may, I was grateful for what they said to me. They told me that receiving Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Communion was a pure gift of grace. It was an offering being made to me. I was not being told what to do, I was being given an opportunity … and I could choose to participate in it or not.
I was welcome, as all are welcome into the hospitality of Christ’s table!
When the church body gathers to celebrate a Sacrament, it is a time like no other gathering – for in it we believe that Christ is somehow mysteriously present in our midst. The theological definition of sacrament is that it is an outward visible sign of an inward invisible grace. The movement of the Spirit among us is mystery that defies explanation. But every so often, we know when God has touched us – this is God’s presence and it is an amazing gift.
The church is like nothing else that exists on earth. We say it is God’s house, and that God comes to dwell here with us. Yet sometimes we forget to trust that God is a partner in our work and in our planning for the future.
We are a part of this church which Jesus started over 2 millenia ago; this church for which Jesus taught the first teachers and ministers and which he bought with his life so that we would know the love of God to its full extent. Jesus told those who would become his church that they could “come to him when they were weary and heavy burdened, and he would give them rest.” And then he gave the church the gifts of the Sacraments to keep its members vitally connected with his Spirit.
No doubt these are gifts to us in our own time and place. And you and I are always welcome to come and find Christ here – not because we must, but because we may. I am always amazed at how many people walk away from this generous invitation. And I am always grateful for those who accept it.
Because we are at the beginning of a time of transition for our church, I believe it is a good time for us to consider Jesus’ invitation to live into the reality of being sacramental people.
It is a good time for us to embrace this transition work as an opportunity to grow in our self-understanding and in our trust that God is our partner.
It is a good time for us to participate in the gift of Jesus’ church, not because we must but because we may.
Just to let you know…I have never served a church that did the work of transition alone. God was always with us, just as God is with us now. I believe the mystery of the Spirit is waiting to touch us and transform us into something new and blessed. What we need to do…is to first accept the invitation to come! Will you?
Yours in Christ’s Service,
Reverend Linda C. Hey