Christ Comes to Me – From the Rectory
This weekend we will celebrate our first service of Holy Communion for nearly 5 months. With the constraints we are all living with, it may be a strange, even surreal experience. Through face-mask and muffled words, through social distancing and times of silence; how can we still experience the presence of God? Let me share a personal story.
Whilst at theology college I broke my ankle. For several weeks I experienced the dubious pleasure of being pushed around Cambridge in a wheelchair. Morning and Evening Prayer were part of our daily college routine. As access to the back of chapel was easy, I left my crutches in my room and sat at the back of the chapel in my chair. All went well until our first Holy Communion. Taking my place at the back of the chapel as normal I realised, with a sense of alarm, that I had no way to get down the short sharp set of steps that lay between my chair and the altar. I was stuck.
I needn’t have worried; the college chaplain came to me. As she walked slowly down the aisle, bread and chalice held aloft for all to see, I was struck by one powerful thought that has remained with me ever since; ‘I can’t come to Christ, Christ comes to me’. Week after week, year after year I had made the journey down countless church and chapel aisles to receive Christ in bread and wine at the altar rail. Now, imprisoned by my own brokenness, I saw Christ in bread and wine coming to me in a new way. For that moment I was living a parable.
Of course, it doesn’t matter where we receive communion. As the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) shows us: when we open our hearts to Christ, he comes to us. The entire Gospel narrative is the story of God, in Jesus, coming to the world. At the altar, in our pew, at home, wherever; our Holy Communion is the sign of his coming to us in this way. Sometimes, as I learned that day at college, we need the familiar to be disrupted to enable us to see and hear God afresh.
Rev Philip Payne
The Pew Sheet is available in the Download section.