This past November I was fortunate to visit Italy. We traveled with a tour group that included 11 pastors, 3 deacons and 3 bishops. The trip was really a pilgrimage, visiting many sites sacred in Italy, particularly to the Catholic church. I wasn’t sure how I would experience this trip or what I was even looking forward to most. I wanted to let the trip unfold each day as we experienced different sites figuring that if I was unsure of my expectations then nothing would disappoint.
Have you ever found yourself unexpectedly moved by what many would consider ordinary? When traveling in Italy we visited countless Catholic cathedrals and basilicas, some incredibly ornate and magnificent, others simple, almost humble. In these churches are many alcoves with smaller altars and chapels often honoring saints who have gone before. I also started to notice that almost every church we had visited had an “Altar of the Sacrament,” a space that held the body and blood of Christ in between services of Holy Communion. It is kept on the altar a constant awareness of the presence of Christ with us still today in his body and blood shared between us. While Lutherans understand the presence of Christ in this sacrament differently that the Roman Catholic church, we all come together to understand the action taken is through Christ who forgives and saves.
In this next week it is my privilege to teach our 5th graders, and the parents that will join them, about the sacrament of Holy Communion. For so many of these kids they have been coming to church for years and watching as those around them take in the body and blood of Christ. It is now the time for them to learn, to ask questions, to live into a baptismal promise to receive this sacrament. I love to remind them that this is a gift that Christ himself gives to us as he first blessed the bread and wine saying that it is “for you.” It’s also an opportunity to invite them into a practice, a tradition, that has remain unchanged for thousands of years, it practiced by Christians of varying beliefs and is something that brings us closer to unity with each other and the world around us that almost anything.
I invite you to think about what communion means to you in the weeks to come. Listen closely to the words that we share in the Eucharistic prayer and the words of institution, listen to the history they connect us to, the forgiveness and salvation that are proclaimed, and the unity it brings us back to, all the way to Jesus and the disciples together at what was the Last Supper. We are soon entering into the Lenten season, a time when we will walk with Jesus through his teaching and his final days as he journeys to the cross. Let us journey with him, remember all that connects us to the life of Christ and especially to the life that he renews in us through the sacraments.