There are days that I wonder why in the world I belong to this crazy group called the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Over the last few years, I have had a lot of temptation to leave. not because of any issue, but because the our little family seems so messed up. Maybe it's just because I am in Minnesota, the land of, as my Lutheran husband likes to state, "Lutheran, Catholic or Other," but we Disciples are in a bad state here. It's a tough climate for a church to grow in and I should know, as the pastor of a church start that failed. All of the congregations are small and losing members. They are struggling in various ways. In the recent past, we have been disconnected from each other and as a pastor in this denomination in this part of the world, you feel alone, cutoff from any help or advice from the Region or from local churches.
There are a lot of reasons that we are in this state (not the state of Minnesota), reasons that I think are bigger and more complex than I want to believe. For someone who is very missional and wants to explore new ways of being church in this time, it can be very frustrating and one feels like jumping this ship and finding one that has less holes.
But here I remain, not because I'm a sadomasicist, but because as messed up as the Disciples are, this little denomination has a hold on me. I am a Disciple.
So, I've been wondering what makes me stay? I could think of several reasons, but only one comes to mind right now:
Communion every Sunday.
Sounds odd, but that is what does it. We Disciples aren't fancy with our communion like our Lutheran friends, but it is still vital. In our tradition, it is the laity that comes forward with the bread and wine and say the words of institution and lead the prayer. I am always amazed at how these people, with no seminary education can make this time so holy.
I truly believe God reveals Godself in a very real way through the sacrements. The sermon can be the worse sermon imaginable, but the simple sharing of bread and wine, can make the service the best worship ever. Week after week, we go to the table to be reminded of God's goodness, of God coming to earth to live with us, die for us, and give us life. Reminded of God's goodness, we go and share the message in word and deed.
I have some dear friend who is a Presbyterian pastor. For a time I visited the congregation where she was a minister. Her preaching is phenomenal and strong. However, the congregation only had communion a few times during the year. She explained why this was citing Calvin. If you have communion too much, it loses meaning. While I respect her reasoning, it made no sense to me, since I had communion every Sunday and it never lost meaning to me.
Alexander Campbell, one of the founders of the Disciples wrote this concerning gathering at the Table:
“You, my brother, once an alien, are now a citizen of heaven; once a stranger, are now brought home to the family of God. You have owned my Lord as your Lord, my people as your people. Under Jesus the Messiah we are one. Mutually embraced in the Everlasting arms, I embrace you in mine: thy sorrows shall be my sorrows, and thy joys my joys. Joint debtors to the favor of God and the love of Jesus, we shall jointly suffer with him, that we may jointly reign with him. Let us, then, renew our strength, remember our King, and hold fast to our boasted hope unshaken to the end.”
The act of communion reminds us that this is not my Table, but God's the one who brings us all together; who loves us all the time. All are welcome at the Table.
So, that's why I remain a Disciple.