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Communion Meditations (2019)


There I Was

Originally scheduled for June 23

Among the customs of the sea which every sailor knows, there is the “sea story.” A good sea story always begins the same way: “There I was…” We might ask why.

Well, first of all, it’s traditional. No doubt it has been handed down since the days of sail and often involves the same sea monsters. You can almost hear the captain saying, “there I was… This fellow named Jonah walked on board my ship and brought with him a storm the likes of which you will never see.” Now, for the landlubber and the naïve — children about six years of age are ideal for this — the personal nature of the opening lends some semblance of believability to the story. After all, you’re getting it from an eyewitness. Perhaps more important, it attaches the story to a person. When you repeat it you can say, “uncle Blowhard told me this story himself.” If the story is good enough it will soon be attached to somebody else and passed on down to the next generation of sailors. All of whom, of course, will start the same way and tell you they were there.

But what if you’re telling the truth — and you weren’t there? The standards are a bit higher. You do much better off with a written account by eyewitnesses rather than just tradition. That’s why we have the Gospels, for example. You also need some way of involving the listener — they’re not going to remember what they don’t think is important. In fact, the more commitment you can get from them, the better. But you do want to name names — it wasn’t “some guy” but Jesus of Nazareth. And if it’s really important, you include a ceremony of some sort. There is a reason that every day at sunset the lonely notes of Taps float over the watery grave of the USS Arizona, bringing tears to the patriot’s eyes. It’s not a sea story.

Which brings us to communion, then. The story is well known to all Christians and is of primary importance. It is the story of the faith: how Christ, on the cross, made the atonement for our sins and opened the gates of heaven to us. The story of the atonement is the story of forgiveness for mankind. Christ gave us instructions to link that story to a simple set of symbols, shared by all Christians. The cup is his blood; the bread, his body. The ceremony is a simple one, yet profound. It’s like Taps — a simple melody that touches the heart deeply.

It is our story. Let us pass it on to our children and their children in the way in which we received it: simple, touching the heart and profound.

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