Monday, 2 February 2015

Heterodoxy, maybe even Heresy to start the New Year!

The church newsletter went out yesterday... much to my surprise, I have already received numerous requests for a copy of my "Notes from Norm"  Something seems to have hit a chord with my folks... and so, not just because I am too lazy to send copies to all who ask, but also because maybe there's somebody reading my blog for whom this might also strike a chord. 
or not. 

Also, I haven't blogged in over 6 weeks... and I really should have written something. 

So, as my way of multi-tasking, I offer this a response, inspiration and long over-due publication. (WOW, three things a once... if you include me hiding my head in shame for calling this multi-tasking, that's FOUR things at once. )

Without further delay:  

January 4th, 2015.  It was the first Sunday of a New Year.  I was still recovering from my Man-Flu (formerly Man Cold) as well as the joy and efforts of Christmas at Jubilee and in the Seli family, which involved several extra services, events and a Christmas Dinner that would be the first meal cooked in my son’s new house and would gather my children, parents, sister, niece and nephew, father-in-law and two brother-in-law… as well as my son’s girlfriend who arrived from India three days before.  Did I mention that this was our first time meeting her? Did I mention the Man-Flu?    I mention all of these details perhaps as an excuse… either for what had already happened or what was about to happen. 
I arrived at Jubilee, eager, if not rested, to begin a New Year.  Our first New Year with Music Director Daniel, Drama Wonder Jennine and our ever exuberant intern Étienne.  I was looking forward to singing more Christmas Carols (after all the season extends beyond the day) and celebrating Communion.  There is something special about Communion on the first Sunday of a New Year.  For me, it is a balm to my soul and nerves that have been stretched over Christmas; it is a quiet moment when I sit at table with God and all of Creation and see  holy in the simple and mundane.  It is a moment for recognizing and embracing God’s presence and committing to carrying it with me through the year as it unfolds.
Well… I would love to show you a picture of the beautiful Communion set up that greeted me at 10:15 as I darted into the sanctuary to grab check something with Daniel before the service.
Somehow, in the joy and stress of Christmas time, I had not communicated my dedication to New Year’s Communion… I had not passed on my passion for the Sacrament… I had not requested or checked that Communion be set up for Sunday.  

There was nothing there.

I ran to the kitchen… nothing was being prepared.  I checked the Craft Room where Communion Supplies are stored… nothing was happening.  I checked again and discovered that we had NO bread… NO Grape Juice… and NObody to fix it.
I hung my head, decided to blame my Man-Flu and went back to my office.  I gathered Jennine and Étienne, told them the news and decreed that we would have Communion next week and simply skip over the Communion Prayers in the Order of Service.
It was Jennine who blurted, “Aw c’mon, we can do it!”
“We don’t have any bread” I explained.
“I have some Christmas Cake” said Jennine as she proferred a lovely Christstollen that Pat had given her for Christmas.  I looked at it… it was bread.  And dried fruit, marzipan and powdered sugar.. but I don’t what kind of bread Jesus had at the Last Supper, do you??
Étienne’s enthusiasm was instant (no shock) and Jennine set about to cut up the Christstollen while I found some Fruit Drink, broken cookies (in case we ran out of Christstollen)… prepared one tray of Fruit Drink in tiny cups, and unceremoniously put the proceeds of our efforts on the Communion Table along with our usual Cup and Plate.
As the service proceeded, I adapted the prayers and change the focus of the service so that we might recognize the order that God brings out of chaos; the hope when everything seems to be falling apart; the promise that God continues to act in the world and in our less than perfect lives.   It seemed to connect.
Of course, I would never want my Seminary, nor the folks that ordained me to see what transpired that cold January morning.  There was no elegance to the table, we did not have the “proper” elements for celebrating Communion – recalling that Jesus broke the bread and declared “This is my body broken for you” I snapped a chocolate chip cookie in twain and hoped that no one would laugh. As people received the “body” of Christ, Étienne reminded them that “Jesus is sweet”.   The Fruit Drink was ridiculously sweet and very, very bright.  As we had no extra servers, Jennine, Étienne and I served everybody as they came down in one line down the centre aisle, necessitating a fair bit of weaving, cutting around behind and in front and much less efficiency than our usual practice.  And some kids tried for seconds (some succeeded).
Not dignified.
Not orderly.
Probably not really official.

And yet… having only one tray of small cups, I watched many people choose to dip in the large cup, even if they would normally have taken a small cup, because they wanted to make sure that would be enough for everybody  (we had one small cup left after everybody had been served) – simple kindness.  I saw people being patient with each other as soft collisions necessarily took place.  I got engaged in discussion during coffee about whether what we had just done was Orthodox, Heterodox or Heresy… and I heard many people talking about the experience.  How often do we stop to talk about Communion??
But more than that, I felt the presence of God in our sanctuary that morning.  As badly as we did it; as heretical as our practice may have been… it was holy.
As we did our best; made do with what we had available, God was present to make up the difference.  What a great way to start the New Year!
It has struck me since that this is something that happens at Jubilee quite often: We take what we have, we put it out in our imperfect way to the community
               and God is present. 
At Community Table.
At Ulterior Worship
At Labyrinth Walks
At Bible Study
At Living the Questions Discussions
At Youth and Children’s programs
At Baptism and Communion.
As collect food and clothing for our brothers and sisters in need.
As we try to support our friends at Eva’s Place and the Massey Centre
As we try to welcome the stranger who comes through our doors for the first time.
In all that we do… God is present.

I would invite you to be similarly inspired and recognize that even though you don’t know what to do from time to time; even though you may not be perfect… you have the promise that God is present and will make up the difference.
Don’t know what to say to a friend who has lost a loved one?  You don’t have to an expert, offer what you have with sincerity… say the wrong thing if you must…but know that it doesn’t rest on you alone, like our January Communion, God will make up the difference.
Have a thought about God or a question about Jesus but don’t know how to phrase it? Don’t want to sound foolish or be wrong?  Remember the January Communion, say what you’re thinking and feeling, you don’t have to be a graduate theologian (nobody likes them anyway)  - dare to speak and let God make up the difference.
Afraid to take on a project or a task in the community, at work, at Jubilee?  You don’t have to be an Engineer or an experienced planner… offer your imperfect Christstollen and remember our January Communion and expect people to collide gently, respond politely and engage in the imperfection with love… and trust God to make up the difference.
What started out as a disaster and then became a great risk, proved to be a highlight of a New Year and a wonderful reminder of what happens when we do the best with what we have and trust in God to make up the difference…. Not just a Jubilee, but in life, as well.

No doubt, there will be typos and errors of grammar in this - 

but I am trusting in you to overlook them… and God to make up the difference.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful and inspired way of being in the moment...perfection in the imperfection! A great way to walk in the world. Thanks for sharing Norm.