A Pastoral Word
What do you get when over 5,000 Disciples descend upon Fort Worth? General Assembly! We gathered on Saturday night for opening worship in downtown Forth Worth with 5,000 of our brothers and sisters in faith. It was an awe inspiring experience. Voices came together in song as the chorus of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arm” filled the arena. The arena had become a sanctuary where we would gather for worship, gather for business and gather to discern where God is leading our denomination according to Sharon Watkins our General Minister and President.
It was amazing to look around the crowd on that first night of worship and realize that we had all traveled to Fort Worth to worship and to grow in our relationship with God. People had traveled north. People had traveled south. People had traveled east. People had traveled west. And we were all there, feeling the presence of God in that very place.
One of the traditions of opening worship is that we have communion during the worship service. Sharon Burchell leaned over to me and asked how are they going to serve communion to over 5,000 people. I simply said just wait and see. So worship continued and we heard the story of Jesus feeding the crowd of 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish. And we soon realized that we were going to be experiencing this story in real life when it came time for communion in the worship service. Would there be enough communion bread for everyone? Would there be enough chalices filled with juice for everyone? All we could do was just wait and see.
The Words of Institution were said and the bread was broken. The cup was blessed and then it was time to distribute the elements to the 5,000 gathered in that sanctuary on Saturday night.
Each section had their own baskets of bread and a chalice. A basket and a chalice were passed down row after row of people, never running out. The basket and the chalice served as reminders for us of God’s amazing abundance. They refreshed our souls and nourished us just as the loaves and the fish nourished that crowd of 5,000 so many years ago.
There was plenty of communion for everyone. In fact, there was communion left over. We had eaten at God’s table of abundance. We had sampled the goodness of grace and peace through the simple meal of bread and juice. We were nourished for the journey that awaited us in Forth Worth.
There is a joke among Disciples churches that the Disciples world is a small world. After Saturday, I would say that the Disciples’ world is a very large world filled with the Holy Spirit. That the Disciples’ world is a very large world filled with God’s abundance. That the Disciples’ world is a very large world that is filled with God’s compassion for God’s creation and God’s people.
We have gathered in Fort Worth and we have accepted the challenge of how are we going to share God’s feast with all of God’s people. And for those who ask us as Disciples how it is going to be done, all we can say is “Just wait and see!”