Message from Pastor Liz

Thoughts for Our Nelson UMC
Friends and Community
 
I Have Thoughts . . .

In everything, give thanks.

We’re celebrating communion Sunday and the logistics of ‘receiving the body and blood of Christ’ without infecting or killing folks are formidable.  No hymnals for liturgies, but the order of service printed out on paper and sealed in a maybe-not-so-hermetically-sealed-but-will-have-to-do Ziploc bag for a week to disinfect any possible germ critters will work;  little boxes with a quartered King’s Hawaiian roll and a teeny-tiny little cup of juice individually collected in place of humans offering other humans the elements.  Really? Doesn’t exactly resonate with “feast”, does it? 

But – and it is important – the heart and soul of eucharist/communion/the Lord’s Supper really is not the optics or liturgics, and I love me some proper liturgics [“liturgics” are the public rituals and practices of worship].  I know many of us have our favorite ways or traditions for communion:  intinction or common cup, cardboard wafers or real bread, passes among the pews or standing in line to receive the elements from the priest or pastor. I have done most all kinds of ways and always find something new and/or profound when experiencing this ancient rite in new and engaging ways.*

But, friends, the heart and soul of communion is hospitality.  Christ offering himself entirely for others; the church offering ourselves entirely for others; others no longer perceived as “other” but as “one of us” – all the precious, beloved children of God.  And, if we are honest, sometimes we are ‘less than hospitable’ with some Others.  Even during communion.  But we are called to be hospitable.  Think Matthew 25:31ff.  Think all the different versions of feeding the multitudes.  Think Jesus instituting the sacrament while Judas sat at his table.  Communion is unshirking hospitality.

I learned about real hospitality [as compared to “company’s coming; hide the laundry and

*I did have communion once led by a fellow seminarian from Canada who used MooseHead Beer and M&Ms;  don’t remember if there was a point, but it was NOT profound.

throw all the dirty dishes into the dishwasher!” kinds of hospitality] from, as so often I did, from the example of my mother.  Full disclosure:  I also learned about hiding the laundry and throwing dirty dishes in the dishwasher from her, but that’s another story.  Here’s just one story about Phyllis “PeeWee” Buxton’s sermons on Being A Better/Decent Human:

December in Missouri with all the weather that one expects:  snow, freezing temperatures, freezing rain, more snow.  We were already on Christmas vacation [because that’s what it was called back then] and, as was my parents and their friends habit, they met at the local truck stop/fine dining establishment for breakfast and a break from all us kids.  While they were talking and waiting for the liquid black tar The Bobber sold as coffee, my mother noticed another booth filled with old teenagers or young adults, depending on your definition.  There were four “long-haired hippy freaks” and a young woman, holding a baby, sobbing desperately but quietly.  Mom’s radar started pinging. 

“Let me out, Bob,” she told my father, chin deep into his Bobber Breakfast Bonanza. Confused but used to it, he let her out and she made a beeline to the other table.  Pulling all 4 ft. 10 inches to maximum effect, she asked if they were alright.  They were not.  The boys were in a band and the bus just broke down and they didn’t have any money, and – oh yeah – the guitarist’s ‘significant other’ has just had a baby, and they were all stuck and out of luck.  More sobs. 

“You can come home with me, my husband over there and I, and we’ll get this worked out.”  Noticing now that there was no food on the table, she asked, “When did you last eat?”  No one volunteered an answer.  Rookie mistake.  She headed over to the cashier, a twenty-something that had been in Mom’s 4th grade class not so long ago.  “Mary, see that table over there?  I want five platters of pancakes and syrup, a couple of plates of bacon, and see if they need milk for that baby’s bottle.  You know what to do with the ticket.”  “Yes, ma’am.”  Mary knew better than to stop Mrs. Buxton when she was on a roll.

Back to the table: “Eat your breakfast and when you’re done come over to my table.  We’ll figure it out.  Where’s the bus?”  To describe their faces as “stunned” was, I was told, to live large in the world of understatement.  That was short-lived once the pancakes and bacon arrived and “stunned” turned into “bliss”.

The short/ish version:  we spent the days before Christmas with this group of total strangers sleeping on the couches, the floors, wherever.  Folks in town heard about all this [as word does travel in a small town] and somebody volunteered to tow and work on the bus, church ladies all over town wore a path to our front door with food, coats, bags of Christmas presents labeled “for the band” or “for the baby” [that baby did really well that Christmas!] and the momma of the band laid down the law with that baby’s daddy about musicians, touring, real jobs, and responsibility.  She was great.

The local mechanic, who never darkened a church door anywhere [read:  “heathen”], got that bus to fairly purr and they all managed to get wherever “home” was by Christmas.  Our house was never quite the same.  Mom would get letters and pictures of the baby with some regularity for years afterward.  And folks still tell the story about the time ‘Buck and PeeWee took in all those potheads and that baby for Christmas’.   

But that’s just one example of where and how I learned about proper Christian hospitality.  I could tell you a dozen more.  And, I strongly suspect, you could tell me your stories as well.  Hos-pitality is not a Martha Stewart moment;  it’s a crazy Aunt Bootsy or Uncle Cork or whoever is in your family who showed us more than told us what real, up-to-your-elbows in strangers and diapers hospitality looks like. 

And sometimes, it’s weird little boxes with little doohickeys that look like creamer instead of grape juice and cubes of bread instead of what we’re used to so we don’t even possibly make someone sick or – even worse! – serve them killer communion.  Communion is about inviting others in, whoever they are, however they are, because grace demands it.

Grace and soap.g

~Pastor Liz         

Phone: 434.222.3394   Email: pastor@nelsonumc.com   Website: www.nelsonumc.com

 

*Hymn  “Where Joy And Sorrow Meet”

There’s a place of quiet stillness

‘tween the light and shadows reach;

Where the hurting and the hopeless seek everlasting peace,

Words of men and songs of angels whisper comfort bittersweet,

Mending grief and life eternal

Where joy and sorrow meet.

 

CHORUS

There is a place where hope remains

In crowns of thorns & crimson stains

And tears that fall on Jesus’ feet,

Where joy and sorrow meet.

 

There’s a place the lost surrender

And the weary will retreat,

Full of grace and mercy tender in times of unbelief;

For the wounded there is healing strength is given to the weak

Broken hearts find love redeeming

Where joy and sorrow meet.

 

CHORUS

There is a place where hope remains

In crowns of thorns & crimson stains

And tears that fall on Jesus’ feet,

Where joy and sorrow meet.

 

There’s a place of thirst and hunger

Where the roots of faith grow deep,

And there is rain and rolling thunder when the road is rough and steep;

There is hope in desperation, there is vict’ry in defeat

At the cross of restoration

Where joy and sorrow meet.

 

CHORUS

There is a place where hope remains

In crowns of thorns & crimson stains

And tears that fall on Jesus’ feet,

Where joy and sorrow meet.

“While we are worshipping differently, we all recognize that the church must still meet our financial obligations.  So, first – and let me be plain and clear – take care of yourselves first.  Full stop;  end of sentence.  This is true whether or not we find ourselves in our own version of ‘plague of locust’ or not.  After that, if you can continue to support the church budget in these times, prayerfully consider such support and know we will gratefully receive any tithes or offerings by mail at Nelson UMC, 5239 Thomas Nelson Hwy., Arrington, VA   22922.”
 
Thanks.  Liz