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Communion Meditations (2018)



Originally scheduled for April 8

Basic Training in the United States Army is not, in general, a pleasant experience. It is a memorable one, but not particularly pleasant. One aspect of this training happens on a bleary-eyed, “Zero Dark Thirty,” type of morning. Somewhere in the vast pyramid of command someone has called for a parade. As it usually does not matter which particular group of soldiers is on parade, the task falls to those lowest in the food chain — basic trainees.

Everything in the uniform that can be polished must be polished. The shoes should be absolute mirrors; the brass buttons and insignia should glisten blindingly. To make sure that this happens a sergeant will be assigned to inspect each of the trainees. The slightest deficiency will be pointed out (in a loud and demeaning voice, of course) and all these deficiencies will need to be remedied immediately. Once this is accomplished, you will be lined up to prove that you can march together like robots — altogether in step, leading off with the same left foot.

The original intention of such marching was to move a unit on the battlefield as one unit, not a gaggle of men. The process is supposed to help develop the morale, unity and team spirit of the organization. If suffering together does that, this is quite a successful technique.

Of course, this is part of Basic Training. One of the expected results of such training is that the soldier will learn to do his own self-inspection. Once you get past Basic Training, you are expected to be able to do this without too much fuss. Notice, however, the standards of performance and uniform are not slackened; you still have to meet them. It’s just that you do it without a sergeant screaming at you. They call it self-discipline. The best way to do this seems to be to have your uniform always ready for parade, with only the slightest actions required to get it exactly right. That way, you are always ready to go on parade. The idea is that this should rub off and you should also be always ready to fight.

Communion bears some resemblance to this. It is a form of self-inspection; we are told that a “man should examine himself” before taking communion. No one stands over you while you do this, but you should be doing it. Should you happen to be looking for the things you should examine, might we suggest these three:

·         What is your view of God the Father? Do you see him as the awesome, holy and sovereign God or do you think of him as your buddy? If you want your prayers answered, it’s best to know to whom you are talking.

·         Do you display gratitude (and wonder) when you contemplate the Cross on which Christ died? Even though you do this every week, it should not become ho-hum.

·         How well do you display hospitality towards the Holy Spirit? Are you open to his leadings to improve your spiritual life, or is your care for him something that is “Sunday only?”

Examine yourself; take and eat the body and blood of Christ — and grow in the faith.

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