What a week it has been as we have all adjusted to a world we never dreamed of. I appreciate those of you who have tuned in to participate in Compline at 8 every evening (M-F). Several of you have asked about Maisie, aka the Devil Cat, and when she will make another Compline appearance. My answer is that cats are kind of like the Spirit — they go where they will. She actually was there last night, walking around the table and attacking Joseph Henry, but it was all off camera. So keep watching, you never know what may happen.
Tomorrow morning will be our first Sunday streaming worship. It will be at 10 a.m., and you can tune it the same as you have done for Compline. If you’re on Facebook, simply go to our Facebook page and scroll down until you see the live feed. Or if you “follow” the page it should be in your newsfeed. If you’re not on Facebook, don’t worry. Just go to our website, www.stdunstan.net, and click on the button at the banner on top of the page, or at the bottom of the page under our worship schedule. That will take you to our Facebook page and you will see the live feed (you may have to scroll down a bit). And remember that the video of these services are recorded on the page, so if you cannot watch “live,” you can always watch later.
There has been a great deal of discussion online among clergy types about what kind of service to offer tomorrow. Some are insistent on Morning Prayer rather than the Eucharist. Morning Prayer is a beautiful service. Those of you who grew up in the Episcopal Church before 1979 may remember that it was often used on Sunday mornings, with Eucharist only once or twice a month. (If you’re interested in praying Morning Prayer at home I recommend this website, www.missionstclare.com). Those who are going back to it tomorrow argue that it is the appropriate service for when the people of God cannot gather for the Eucharist.
I understand that rationale, but I don’t agree with it. I think the words of the Eucharist are exactly what we need to hear tomorrow morning, We need to hear familiar, comforting words that reassure us of Christ’s presence with us. And I believe that we will be gathered together, in spirit if not in body. The picture below is one way of showing that. We are the people of God; scattered, yet still together. Always.
Some of you have asked me if it is okay for you to partake of your own bread and wine tomorrow while watching the service. I’ll give you the official Church answer, which is that there is no “virtual” presence of Christ. There is even a prayer that fits this occasion. You’ll find it printed in the bulletin:
in the wonder of your wisdom and love
you fed your people in the wilderness with the bread of angels,
and you sent Jesus to be the bread of life.
Though I cannot consume these gifts of bread and wine,
I thank you that I have received the sacrament
of Christ’s presence,
the forgiveness of sins, and all other benefits of Christ’s passion.
By the power of the Holy Spirit,
may I embody your desire
and be renewed for your service,
through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
If a person desires Communion but is unable to eat and drink the Bread and Wine, the minister should assure that person that all benefits of Communion are received through an act of spiritual communion even if the Sacrament is not received with the mouth. The individual may pray, using these words:
You are invited to participate in a “spiritual communion.” That is the official theology of the Church.
However, I could also make a case that unforeseen circumstances may call for a broader theology. Jesus was first and foremost about being with people, feeding them, healing them, comforting them. After the resurrection, when the disciples were locked away together in fear — social distancing themselves — Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst. He didn’t knock on the door and wait for someone to answer. He just appeared inside a locked room. No laws of physics or rational thought can explain that, but we believe it happened. So who’s to say that Jesus is not present over the Internet, that the blessings proclaimed at the altar at St. Dunstan’s can not travel to your own living or dining room?
I also know that Jesus was willing to put aside the law when the circumstances demanded it. That is what tomorrow’s gospel reading is about. Jesus healed a man who had been blind since birth. Yet all the religious authorities could see was that Jesus had violated the law, by doing this on the Sabbath. We can get so caught up in the law, that we miss the miracle happening right in front of us.
Finally, I ask you to remember that this is all a work in progress. I’m a print person, not a video one. We’re all learning as we go, and there will be some mistakes along the way, I’m sure. Be patient and forgiving! I look forward to “being” with you all tomorrow morning.