We have a guest writer for our newsletter this week! One of my colleagues in ministry, the Rev. Alina M. Kanaski, wrote this lovely second part to an article I shared in August. Pastor Alina serves two churches: Chartiers Valley United Presbyterian Church and Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, both in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
You may remember that a few months ago I wrote a letter to you all about a practice I had started: I started writing down every time I experienced a sacrament. I write it on a slip of paper, fold it in half, and put it in my M&M Star Wars mug.
A word of explanation: John Calvin (somewhere in Institutes of Christian Religion): “the term sacrament … embraces generally all those signs which God has ever enjoined upon men to render them more certain and confident of the truth of his promises.” That is, a sacrament is any moment when we feel God’s presence, any moment when we are reminded of God’s truth and determine to keep going the way that God has set before us. A sacrament, then, is not just that moment when we come up for communion or see a baby being baptized. It is any moment that God uses something tangible to remind us of God’s grace for us. (John Calvin is by far not the only one to argue this; his writings were just the first time I encountered this idea.)
I’m not just writing down when I receive communion, then. I’m writing down any time I receive God’s grace, any time that something I can see or touch reminds me that God is with me.
That feels especially appropriate now, in this time and place, where our sacraments look so very different. It is an entirely new thing for us to say the words (“This is the body of Christ; this is the blood of Christ”) and eat our variety of breads and wines (coffee cake and cinnamon rolls and crackers, paired with water and coffee and wine and whatever else we have on hand) while we’re together only over the phone or computer. This is not the same as being together every Sunday and seeing our sisters and brothers and being handed the bread and wine and knowing that we’re all sharing the same food.
But know that this is still a sacrament, still an overflowing of God’s grace for each one of us, whether you are able to call in on Sunday morning or not–that God is eternally with you. The fact that we are not all eating from the same food and drinking from the same wine does not keep God from saying through it: “This is my body, and this is my blood. You are loved, and you are forgiven.”
And know that, just as I discovered the first time I wrote about this practice of seeking out sacraments and God’s grace all around me, you too are surrounded by reminders of God’s grace: the voice of a friend, the cardinal outside your window, a meal you’ve gifted or received, or any one of the other thousands of ways that God reminds you: You are loved. You are precious. God will always be with you.