I attended a worship gathering years ago in a church where the Holy Spirit got moving.
Well, at least that’s what the preacher said. Have you ever noticed some preachers like to blame the Spirit when their sermons seem to drag on a bit? That’s what happened that day.
I recall deciding I didn’t need to be a 45-minute-sermon preacher. At first, I thought I was chickening out. Then on a Tuesday, someone asked me about something I said on Sunday. I could’ve asked them why they weren’t taking better notes or paying attention. But I didn’t even remember what I said.
So, I cut my sermons in half. Which is actually hard to do. You can’t say everything you want to say about a passage when you slice it down like that. There’s little room for tangents because if you steer toward one, you’re going to lose your listener’s attention.
From time to time, I even preach 6-minute sermons. I kind of think the Holy Spirit moves better when I learn to keep quiet.
But the preacher that day in church blamed the Holy Spirit for stretching the sermon. And here’s what hit me. The preacher then said, “Sorry, church, we ran out of time for Communion. We’ll do that another week.”
Now, this was years ago. So, I’ve already confessed my initial thoughts to God and a few other people. It wasn’t pretty, I’ll just tell you that. I understand there are faith traditions that don’t practice communion as I do. They don’t share my understanding of it either. Our convictions about what it means are different.
But I would never blame my long-windedness on the Spirit, especially if it meant the church would miss out on Holy Communion. In fact, if we are set to have Communion, we are going to have it no matter what.
When I told one of my mentors about this experience, he asked me, “So what does that teach you about what Holy Communion means to you?” That’s just like a good mentor. He took my focus off the church I’ll probably never attend again and onto my understanding of the Lord’s table. I so wanted him to let me have a moment of Lord’s-table-superiority.
He didn’t. He taught me that more than anything I had different expressions of the sacraments. And here I was thinking I had better expressions.
That’s part of what the apostle Paul wanted the Corinthian church to understand. For them, the Lord’s table had become an exclusive party occasion. Their observation of the sacrament didn’t unite the body. It tore it apart. Rich Christians gathered with rich Christians to feast and drink wine. They left nothing for poor Christians. That was not the new covenant Christ proclaimed.
As Jesus reclined with his disciples at the table, he desired their unity. That’s what he prayed for. That’s what he wants for us, too. At the table, God unites us. Our differences of opinion and practice may be important to us. But they are not important enough to God to break our fellowship.