26th April 2024

The preacher at my ordination service was my College Principal, Revd Dr Barrie White. In a section of his sermon aimed specifically at me, he warned that ministry wouldn’t always be easy. There’d be times when I might feel completely out of my depth, worn out by the responsibility, empty of anything useful to give to the people. Some weeks, writing a sermon (and in those days, of course, it was two every Sunday) might seem plain impossible, and whatever was eventually produced not fit for purpose. When I had nothing to give of myself, I was to take comfort that one of my regular duties was to preside at Communion, to offer the bread and wine of salvation to the saints gathered at Christ’s Table. Despite any weakness in the one presiding, God would feed and strengthen his people.

That thought has done its gracious work for me over the years, but another way in which I take comfort at Communion is in the present-day openness of the invitation to come to the Table. In times past, congregations tried their hardest to prevent the ‘unworthy’ from taking communion, and, while it’s true Paul warns that we’re to examine ourselves before taking the bread and wine (I Cor 11:27-29), the context is one of social divisions within the church rather than the perennial problem of human sin. When we despair of ourselves, when we’re only too aware of our ‘unworthiness’, there’s no better time to hear Christ’s invitation to take the bread and wine. Despite any flaws in the guests at the party, still God feeds and strengthens his people.

Ken Stewart