For as long as many of us can remember, the first Sunday of the month has meant the celebration of Holy Communion. I (Pastor Tom) have memories of communion as far back as I can remember. I shared with someone recently my love for the “old” communion liturgy and the rhythm of those prayers. I must confess, as a child my preference for communion Sundays was largely because those Sundays our pastor didn’t preach, and my young self enjoyed the weeks without 20 minutes of a single speaker. All of your pastors relish in the act of serving communion because of the deep meaning it has for us. In many ways, it is more meaningful than receiving communion. When sending out new preachers to the “New World,” John Wesley’s final words to them are said to have been, “offering them Christ.” In so many ways serving communion makes that admonition concrete.
Even so, we, your pastors, are joining with our brothers and sisters around North Carolina and the world to fast from Communion for the month of September. Our Bishop, has invited all our congregations to fast for a season from communion. Bishop Ward writes, “Fasting from the Lord’s Supper in this season is a sacrifice, a loss, a grief. Might that sense of sacrifice, loss and grief connect us in profound ways to the people around us in the world at this time?” By fasting, we mean not only to refrain from Holy Communion, but to do so actively, reflectively and intentionally.
Fasting from Holy Communion is an opportunity for us to honestly and faithfully grieve the loss of community — real, deep, and profound connection — that is so much a part of these weeks and months of Covid-19. This virus has revealed some deep division in the community of our nation. In our fasting, we are invited to lament the brokenness of our world and our longing for community. In the words of Psalm 133, “how good and pleasant it is for kindred to live together in unity.”
Further, fasting from communion can be an opportunity for us to consider the blessing of community and all that it means for us. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote “it is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians. . . . between the death of Christ and the Last Day it is only by a gracious anticipation of the last things that Christians are privileged to live in visible fellowship with other Christians.” During this season of fasting, we invite you to lament for those who have no chance for Christian community and confess the ways we have taken for granted this rich blessing.
When fasting is done well, the “break-fast” allows us to be all the more aware of the blessings we have foregone. It is our prayer that when we gather in October for the celebration of World Communion Sunday at the lot near The Galley Store, we will be able to “taste and see” all that Communion is for us.
Sunday Scripture Exodus 1:8-2:10