From a Distance, Still Together
Please read 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you...”
Paul was not with Jesus and his disciples to celebrate the Passover with them. Yet, he describes for the fellowship of believers at Corinth some of the events of that evening. The Corinthian believers weren’t there, either, but they receive the story. Someone told the story to Paul, and he in turn relayed it to the church: This is the story as I heard it, so now I’m telling it to you.
Every time we gather for worship as the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), we tell the story again. Sometimes we use these words from Paul. Sometimes we relay the account of one of the gospel writers. Whatever words we choose, the effect is the same. We pass the story along to one another. We share the story from generation to generation.
By the time this devotional reading surfaces, it will have been more than a year since the COVID-19 pandemic reshaped our understanding of what it means to be the gathered community. The coming together for worship and fellowship that once was centered in buildings with sanctuaries and fellowship halls now takes place across a number of settings. Our gatherings now bring together a variety of different venues.
Still, we gather at the table, and when we are gathered in worship, we tell the story again of what Jesus did on that night he was betrayed. We may not be physically present with one another. We may not be in a three-dimensional gathering, but we are still the assembled community of believers. We are still the church.
Paul was not present with the church at Corinth when he wrote those familiar words. He wrote to the church from a distance and used the opportunity to remind the church what it means to be the gathered community. He points out that as the fellowship of believers, we share with one another just as Christ shared with us.
Paul sets the story in the context of a ritual of the church almost as old as the sharing of communion, the potluck dinner. One of the griefs that COVID-19 dealt us was losing the sense of the potluck dinner around communion. It feels different not to come to the table or to share the elements with one another.
However, even as we long for the smell of fried chicken, broccoli casserole, and pound cake, we are still the gathered fellowship of believers. From our variety of venues, we still gather at the Lord’s Table. Perhaps the pandemic, like Paul’s word to the believers at Corinth, has reminded us what it means to be the church.
Rev. Dean Phelps, Visiting Regional Minister