Wednesday Word: Why do we do what we do?

Why do you do what you do? And do your parishioners understand what they are doing? -- Paul

Every Thursday afternoon I spend about an hour and a half with a few other clergy from Hagerstown. It's a non-denominational gathering to discuss the lectionary texts for the NEXT week. There are a few regulars in the group, a few semi-regulars, and then there are those who just drop in randomly. Last week we had a good-sized group that included myself and pastors from the Methodist, Lutheran, UCC, and Reformed traditions. And Paul.

I haven't quite figured out to what church Paul is attached, but I think it's somehow linked with the Brethren. Either way, I like Paul. He looks like an old cowboy, has a slight western drawl, is smart as a whip, and can pose insightful and cutting questions. He's also from Wyoming, which may be why I like him so much.

Last week we were talking about this coming Sunday, August 6. For a majority of those gathered around the table this will be “Communion Sunday,” that once-a-month Sunday when they celebrate Communion in their tradition. The discussion revolved around why only once-a-month, mechanics (the “how” of how it's done), whether this is a memorial or sacrifice, certain people's annoyance with the process taking too long, wine or grape juice, sacraments or symbols, and a few other clergy-type issues. All the while Paul sat and listened.

And then he asked, “Why do you do what you do? And do your parishioners understand what they are doing?” This question was based on his experience of asking, “Why do you do what you do?” to any number of people of different denominations and getting what he called, “The glossy-eyed standard catechetical response that really doesn't say much of anything.”

We all had a variety of answers, and he continued to push us on our answers until we started to get away from what he thought was the right “book answer” and more into personal “honest answers.”

Talking with Paul is always interesting and challenging, and I appreciate his occasional challenges and push-backs.

So I'll ask you: What do understand to be happening in our liturgy? What do you see as your role in the liturgy? What is the role of Communion in your life? What is your role in the Communion event?

Can you articulate any or all of these answers to another person?

If you can answer these questions, then you have the basis for evangelism. If you can't answer these questions, I suggest you begin practicing (coffee hour is a good place to start), because you never know when you just might run into Paul.



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