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Communion Meditations (2015)

Repair or Replace

Originally scheduled for May 24

In the middle of the 19th century, the United States Navy had a little problem—money.  Feeling that the demands placed on them by their various duties exceeded the means at hand, the Navy asked Congress for money to build new ships to deal with the situation.  Congress was isolationist, however—and fully remembered that they had voted some such thing for the War of 1812.  Congress viewed the problem as one of repairing what you have or buying new.  Reminding the Navy that frugality is a virtue, they authorized funds to repair some number of ships.

One such ship was the USS Constellation.  She was a veteran of the Revolutionary War.  Years of neglect had put her into a condition in which repair would have been foolish.  Her design was obsolete.  So the Navy took what seemed the obvious course.  They announced their request for bids to repair her—with the unwritten proviso that they would scrap her and build a new, "repaired" ship. 

As it happened, Constellation saw a very long service career and was then selected to become a museum ship.  All the official records stated she was the Revolutionary War frigate—so the museum officials "restored" her to what she had never been.  After about fifty years, the official historian for the ship discovered the truth.  Then they had to correct the corrections.

In a sense, we face the same choice today. The human soul resembles that old ship, rotted by sin. We have the choice of repairing or replacing. Repairing is our business; it means that we can correct ourselves to the point of being acceptable to God. Replacement is something God must do; you will recall David in Psalm 51 asking, “create in me a new heart, O God.” It’s tempting to do the repair ourselves; the only real problem with it is that it doesn’t work. We’re trying to repair the rotten with the rotten.

So how does replacement work? The first step is in Christian baptism, and the gift of the Spirit. That work must be continued, however; one way we do this is in constant communion.

“This is my body; this is my blood” — these are the building materials of the new man. Some Christians take this statement quite literally; others symbolically. But all would agree with St. Paul when he warned us about taking communion in an unworthy manner. In 1st Corinthians 11:29-30, he tells us this:


For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.

(1 Corinthians 11:29-30 NASB)


But by the constant taking of communion in a worthy manner we cling to the core of the Gospel, and in so doing claim his grace. Grace, his unmerited favor, implies that he is free to rebuild us in his image. We are to grow more and more like Christ as the time goes by. Communion is essential to this.

So, let Him rebuild the ship — there are stormy seas ahead, and you will need His strength.

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