Participating in a Broadcast Eucharist

Is there value is broadcasting a celebration of the Holy Eucharist, either conventionally on television or, in a more contemporary manner, on the internet?

Note that I am not talking about the practice some call “online communion,” in which the remote participants consume their own bread and wine (or whatever they choose to substitute for that) at the appropriate point in the broadcast service. I am only concerned here with the value of watching the service online and participating in the spoken, sung and enacted elements. Only those physically present at the table eat and drink.

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United Methodist Law and Holy Communion

The Articles of Religion

In 1784, John Wesley gave the newly independent Methodists in America 25 articles of religion, adapted from those in use in the Church of England. The Articles continue to be established doctrine for the United Methodist Church.

The closing text of Article 18 says, “The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not by Christ’s ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshiped”. These final words were aimed at Catholic practices that flow from the doctrine of transubstantiation. There, Christ’s presence in the consecrated host is separated from the context of the holy meal. The host is not just bread to be eaten in faith, it is the embodiment of Jesus even apart from the act of eating. Consequently, the sacrament is reserved so that it can be adored. To adore the consecrated host is to worship Jesus because it is Jesus. The consecrated host is lifted up and carried about in the Procession of the Holy Sacrament on the annual solemnity of Corpus Christi. The Articles of Religion insist that this is not what Jesus intended.

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A Song for this Lent

Wood and Nails – The Porter’s Gate – Work Songs – Audrey Assad and Josh Garrels

O humble carpenter, down on Your hands and knees
Look on Your handiwork and build a house
So You may dwell in me
So You may dwell in me

The work was done with nothing but
Wood and nails in Your scar-borne hands
O show me how to work and praise
Trusting that I am Your instrument

O loving laborer with the sweat upon Your face
Oh, build a table that I too may join You
In the Father’s place
Oh, in the Father’s place

The work was done with nothing but
Wood and nails in Your scar-borne hands
O show me how to work and praise
Trusting that I am Your instrument

The kingdom’s come and built upon
Wood and nails gripped with joyfulness
So send me out, within Your ways
Knowing that the task is finished
The dead will rise and give You praise
Wood and nails will not hold them down
These wooden tombs, we’ll break them soon
And fashion them into flower beds
The curse is done, the battle won
Swords bent down into plowshares
Your scar-borne hands, we’ll join with them
Serving at the table You’ve prepared.

O humble carpenter.

An Act of Spiritual Communion

Many churches are suspending their in-person worship services for the foreseeable future as we battle the COVID-19 pandemic. We can listen to sermons and even participate in liturgy online, but we can’t eat and drink at the Lord’s table. The Catholic and Anglican churches have prayers for “spiritual communion” when it is physically impossible to receive the bread and wine. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the traditional prayers, but I think I would offer this alternative.

My Jesus, I love you above all things. How I long to receive you with my brothers and sisters at the table you have prepared. Since I cannot at this moment receive you in bread and wine according to your promise in the sacrament of Holy Communion, I ask you to feed me with the manna of your Holy Spirit and nourish me with your Holy presence. I unite myself wholly to you. Never permit me to be separated from your love. Amen.

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