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Communion Meditations (2018)


Ouija Board

(Naval Version)

Originally scheduled for February 4

The title of this communion meditation may disturb you. But please be assured we are not talking about the type of Ouija board used in séances, with its air of black magic. No, this Ouija board is found only on aircraft carriers. If you were to look at one you would see a scale model of the flight deck and hanger deck of the aircraft carrier. It’s about 6 feet long and 2 ½ feet wide, and covered with color-coded templates of aircraft, also to scale. The handlers of the aircraft carrier use this device to plan where they’re going to put the next airplane coming aboard, how things are to be moved about and where is there room in the hangar to stick the next one. The system has been around since World War II and has changed very little in that time except to reflect the introduction of the angled flight deck. It takes several people to operate the system, as things happen fast on aircraft carrier. But even so, the device is a model of simplicity which does what it is supposed to do quite well.

The urge to fix that which is not broken is a very strong one in human beings. This is particularly true among human beings who program computers; they are always of the opinion that they could do a better job than any other system. And so it is that for the last 17 years at least there have been several attempts to replace the Ouija board with a computerized system. Each of them has reached the fleet and been rejected as not being of sufficient advantage to replace the Ouija board. But we keep on trying.

Why is it that these attempts to replace the Ouija board have failed? Consider the characteristics of this system:

·         The Ouija board is a very cheap system. You can make one out of cardboard, though most of them now are clear plastic.

·         The thing works. It does everything it is expected to do in a manner so simple that even a beginner can understand it.

·         It’s also very resistant to battle damage. One of the first things that happens in combat is that electrical systems fail; the power goes out, in other words. With this system you pick up a flashlight and continue.

The same kind of reasoning explains why we have Communion in much the same form that the early church did. Consider:

·         It is a cheap system. There is no requirement to have gold communion cups or silver serving trays. Bread and wine are commonly available throughout the world. It is a rare church that hasn’t the money to have communion.

·         It is resistant to “battle damage.” By this we mean changes in theology. For example, many churches shifted from the use of wine to the use of grape juice — with apparently little effect.

·         The system works. Each and every time we participate, communion reminds us of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The bread is his body; the cup is his blood — and we are reminded of his great love for his church, shown on the Cross.

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