Present for the Presence
“Is the Lord among us or not?” – Exodus 17:7 (NIV)
Early in our Covid wilderness, there was a robust online conversation among church leaders about whether or not sacraments could be virtual. Could we really Zoom or Facebook Live the bread and cup? Do you have to be present to partake of the presence?
I saw comments like “Virtual communion amounts to phone sex compared to actual flesh on flesh sex.” Someone commented back: “Ok but is the presence of love less real in either case?” Touché.
There was much less attraction to virtual baptisms in these online dialogues. I did five baptisms during the pandemic. Not once did I or those involved suggest a virtual format. The water, the people and God needed to show up at the same place and time. Covid be damned.
In their wilderness, the parched and irritable Israelites asked, “Is the Lord among us or not?” They demanded God show up, then and there, with actual water. Dehydration (and gracious supplications) be damned.
I wonder if our ponderings about sacramental presence, which assume God is outside of us, are off base. Maybe the bread, the cup, the water invite us to be present to God, in us and around us, because God is presence itself.
Holy Presence, was it only yesterday we celebrated your resurrection, your presence in every deadly wilderness? If we missed it then, may we receive it now.
Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first two books, The Spinner Prince and The Four Guardians are available now.