All at Christ Church know we are a lay led parish. We don’t have a full time or even part time priest so we rely on what are called ‘supply priests’ (unfortunate name, I would say) for communion. So far in our year long experiment together we have pretty much stayed to the schedule of Communion in weeks 1 and 3, Morning Prayer in weeks 2 and 4.
So I was sure I had lined up a priest for this past Sunday, May 5th, but waking up that morning I realized I had never checked. Turned out I had blown it and not gotten a priest.
Christ Church being a rather informal place—some call it low church; CCL is REALLY low church—I knew I could figure something out but the bulletin was printed, Sunday School was lined up etc. So we reverted to a service I had led once before that I call ‘Blessing Communion.’ Now that service doesn’t exist in the Book of Common Prayer and I’m kinda’ hoping the Bishop doesn’t decide to read our web page this week, because what we do is almost the entire communion service and instead of the consecration of the host and wine, we stop short of that and invite people to the rail to be blessed. In doing so we are not violating any of the restrictions on what I can do as Lay Pastoral Leader but we are using the communion service for essentially what is Morning Prayer.
The blessing, like the service, is short and simple-‘be the light of Christ,’ each person is told after being addressed by their first name. ‘And the blessing of God, father, son and holy spirit be with you and remain with you this day and always.’ Very familiar words indeed. I was glad I had this unique service in the CCL portfolio that could easily be pulled out and used.
I was also lucky on the Message front. Two of the readings (Paul’s Damascus Road experience and Jesus asking Peter three times if he loved him) provided enough for me to preach on. I, frankly, pretty quickly put something together that morning that tried to link the stories and centered on how God uses the least of us to deliver his message and to reach his people. Heck in this case he was using the most hated many in the lives of the followers of Jesus, Saul, then he used a simple man named Annanias to wake Saul up (and turn him into Paul), and finally he was using Peter, the simple fisherman to be the literal central figure of his church. All people who central casting would not have called for these roles.
I read these stories and I realize they are like me-not qualified for the job. Nobody could be less qualified than me to deliver messages. But as I have said for a year now, somehow, every single week, God gives me something to say that I think will get through, that will give people something to think about. I’m hoping I did that Sunday.
In fact, I think maybe I did. One of our newest members Bryce Treichel, a graduating senior off to Christopher Newport University, went out of his way to tell me he likes the format of my messages because I link ‘stuff’ and leave folks with something to think about. I was honored to have this bright young man pay me that complement.
But that’s what our entire church is about. Thinking. We don’t shy away from questions, as our Worship Leader Dave Butler encouraged us last week…questions don’t mean our faith will be damaged. Questions make our faith stronger. And we don’t stand on ceremony. Oh we can be ‘high’ church on some Sundays, but there aren’t any people sitting in the back of the pew going ‘tut, tut, tut’ when we go a little off the rails in the service or the message. We are a tolerant, benefit of the doubt community which was proved again Sunday.
So when Jesus is asking Peter if he loves him and does it three times (Peter had to be frustrated, right?) Jesus was just making sure…he was asking Peter to confirm he loved him and would carry out his work. That too is what we do everyday whether we have communion or not. When we are blessed at the rail we are asked to ‘be the light of Christ to the world.’ That means we are asked to do as Peter did…and make sure The Way is clear and understood and ultimately followed.
No I wasn’t afraid Sunday when finding us without a priest because even if I couldn’t come up with something, even if we had to do a totally improvised service, I knew Christ Church would accept it, live into it and see it as just another way for Jesus to ask us if we love him.
We are blessed to have the community we have. And I’m more than blessed to be given the opportunity to serve that community.
Peace and all good,