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Communion is Now on First Sundays

At the stated meeting of Session, March 10, we decided to have communion once a month, on the first Sunday of each month. I'm very happy with this decision. The Book of Order requires that we celebrate communion at least quarterly, but after that, it's up to Session. We had been following the Presbyterian Planning calendar suggestions, but they came irregularly and had large gaps in the calendar. I like having communion regularly and frequently. Personally, my own brain can keep track of things better when they're regular.

Sacraments are really important in the Reformed tradition. In celebrating sacraments, we are witnessing to God's grace with signs (symbols), and also experiencing the thing signified at the same time. The symbol for baptism is water, and the thing signified is, well, a bunch of things that water does. We are cleansed, nourished like a vine, connected to each other like water in a water cycle (every raindrop goes to a river, and every river goes to the ocean). In the action of a dunking baptism, we experience the dying (descending under water where we hear nothing, sense nothing, and do not breath) and the resurrection (coming back up from death to the realm of the breathing).

The symbols for communion are bread and wine. They symbolize "Christ body broken for you," and "the blood of Christ, the cup of the New Covenant." We perform the ceremony "in remembrance" of Christ in accordance with his mandate (thus the name Maundy Thursday: mandate Thursday). In John, Jesus says, I am the bread that came down from heaven. His body is the new manna nourishing us and sustaining us in the new covenant sealed by his blood. Calvin says that Christ is not literally present in the bread and wine, but when we partake of communion, we experience the real presence of Christ, as he lifts us to be with him in heaven. This is a mystery and a grace, and we believe it is real, and it happens in an ephemeral moment during communion.

When I think about all these real things that we experience during sacraments, I wish we could do them every day! A cornerstone of the Reformed tradition is that we don't re-baptize, believing that the waters of baptism are once sufficient to cleanse us from sin. If we re-baptized, it would be saying that we need to return over and over again as though it wasn't sufficient for all time. Because of this, we can't do baptisms every Sunday or every day (unless we really ramp up our evangelism efforts). But we can do communion repeatedly: "as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." So I'd be happy to do communion every single worship service. Still, some congregations argue that doing it frequently makes it less special, not more, and others argue that the time and effort of volunteers and repeated purchasing of materials is a limit to how frequently we can serve communion.

For me, I welcome sacraments as often as they come. Once a month seems like a good compromise. It's also easy to keep track of. If you make a special effort to be here when we're serving communion, you can now know that it's always on the first Sunday of the month.


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