It was a clapboard farmhouse worn smooth… “credentialed” by the years. I’d arrived too late Saturday night to see much. A moonless night, I couldn’t even see the surroundings. But the house was all unlocked, open — a light burning in the kitchen and the upstairs hall, and a note on the open back door telling me which room to take.
Sleeping soundly that first night and waking up early, I had come out to see in daylight where I was. Not even 7 yet, all the bedroom doors were still closed and the house was still quiet.
The valley was still too. But flooded, almost buzzing with sunlight. Hugged by rolling hills to form a series of natural and interconnecting meadows alongside a small, slow-moving river, just a little more than a creek.
On the west, or northwest, all you could see was this huge ridge formed by the steep run where the Appalachian Mountains curve up through the center of the state. The sky was a glowing azure, almost too blue to believe, and beneath, everywhere you looked was various, verdant shades of green.
I perched on top of a weather-grayed picnic table in the front yard, just to take it all in. Slowly other people emerged from the house. Morning quiet, and still looking a little rumpled from sleep, everyone was non-obtrusively welcoming and friendly. They had been expecting me.
Mostly younger than me, they seemed to all come from one of the Presbyterian churches in Center City. I thought of that congregation as a bit “more establishment” than this crowd. One person explained: “We’re a younger, new generation, sort of outliers, who have begun flirting with the idea of an intentional community, some lay spiritual discipline, or at least a covenant in which we can live our Christian faith in common.”
Everyone was enjoying the beautiful morning; no one seemed to have any place else to be — letting ourselves try and get started for the day, getting moving slowly. Not much was happening. But then someone said, “Here they come.” I still don’t know how anyone knew, what the signal was. But suddenly there was some new energy or expectation in the air. Everyone turned to the ridge towering over us.
And just a minute later, something appeared over the top of the ridge. Not the windmills prevalent elsewhere along this height. Instead, it was four, huge diamond-shaped, silver “shields” coming over from the far side of the ridge. They came into sight, and then stalled, right above the crest, huge silver eagles resting motionless on the updraft.
After they’d been still longer than seemed possible in midair, they broke formation and began to sink and loop and soar like huge, metallic kites. Or like some technicolor Broadway show special stage effect. As they spun over and over, you could see that each shield had three people strapped on its backside. Another onlooker explained that with the invention of the lightweight material that formed the shield, this was sort of the latest in “hang-gliding,” but more like being able to sled on air currents. These three people were somehow flying these things!
One of the shields headed down our side of the ridge and everyone cheered as the three people raced past our heads before pulling up and back towards the ridge to catch another updraft. We watched as these teams of three maneuvered and mastered the wind that was their propulsion. I couldn’t really figure out how they were accomplishing this, but I enjoyed witnessing it.
This air show lasted for what seemed like a very long time, longer than it made sense for them to be able to stay aloft. But one by one, the teams lighted finally in the field in front of the house, leaving their paper-thin shields rolled and leaning up against the old stand tree trunks.
As well as being out here working on intentional faith covenants, these young adults seemed to be about mastering this new sport. It reminded me of the Bible’s promise, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
It was getting later, and I figured that soon these intentional people were going to make a move towards leaving for church. I’d seen the handsome, white-frame Presbyterian church in town when I’d made the turn off the main road to come out here to the farm. But no one seemed to be making any ready to leave.
Then I noticed that someone had gone into the house and brought this oversized loaf of bread. This person had begun to walk around the yard in front of the house, all the way down to the meadow in order to offer everyone big chunks of this loaf. When the server got close, I could see that this was some sort of magnificent loaf, all wheaty, but soft, almost like a supersized croissant. And inside, there was some sort of jam. It was like some cross between a big loaf of rustic, French farmer’s bread and an oversized jelly roll!
As the young woman approached me, she looked me in the eye and said, “God’s gift for us.” It WAS communion. They were starting their day with communion. Or celebrating the windsurfers. In the front yard. With no more service, no additional words to frame the meal. Simply that act of receiving God’s gift for us.
Later, I asked if anyone would be going to the church service in town. (I try to get to church even when I’m away — I figure it’s extra points as a minister!) A young man answered, “Some might. But most of us not. We’re not sure we need to go someplace separate to be the church. Instead, we’re trying to bring church into all the places of our life. That’s why we do communion so often.”
“How often do you do it?” I asked.
“Whenever we wish really. Some people include communion with every meal. Jesus did say, ‘Whenever you drink, do it in remembrance of me…’ Others, we just add it to any experience where we recognize we’re experiencing life’s abundance. Like the kiting this morning. Or even just waking up.”
With that, I woke up. I knew it was a dream, but never doubted it. Maybe you’ve had one of those kinds of incredible powerful ur-dreams?
This one has me thinking about how to make of our faith something more than Sunday mornings. Are there ways that we could bring the church into the rest of our lives? Are there others who might be interested in experimenting with this? Are there ways that our lives, led by the Spirit, could be qualitatively different?
I’ve been planning for next Maunday Thursday: we’re going to charge, empower, encourage anyone who can’t be here with us at church for the Last Supper, to simply make celebrating communion a part of their evening meal.
But I’d never thought of other occasions when one might celebrate communion as recognition of the gifts of life. I like it.
Communion on family vacation or at a family reunion.Communion on a day off from work. Communion at the birth of a child. Communion for any old birthday. Communion for our first day in a new house, or our last night in the place that’s been home for so long. Communion with a new friend. Communion the night before a new job.
Communion as something you yourself can do…
Communion as a thanksgiving meal to help us remember God’s gift to us.
See you in church,