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Communion Meditations (2012)


Originally scheduled for July 8

The reader will pardon the story in the first person. Please be assured; this really did happen to your author, it's not just a "preacher story."

When I was 10 years old my father, a career soldier, was transferred to a new post — a proving ground. This is a place where the Army test fires cannon, tank guns, mortars, and conducts all sorts of highly destructive tests. Shortly after we arrived, my family was obliged to attend a training session.

The instructor began by telling us that the post had a long-standing tradition which was part of this training session. He began by taking us to one end of the parade ground and placing there a can of explosive. As I recall, it weighed about 5 pounds; it was not very big. We then marched the length of the parade ground — about 300 yards — in a hot Midwest summer. When we reach the other end of the parade ground our instructor set off the explosive.

Please, forget everything you have learned about explosives in Hollywood movies. This small can of explosive went off with a tremendous roar and a shockwave which almost knocked us over. All of my curiosity evaporated with the shockwave. I had absolutely no interest in taking apart anything that remotely resembled a military explosive. Our instructor went on to explain that the proving ground contained many examples of unexploded ordnance – all of which should be left strictly alone.

As I mentioned, this was considered a traditional introduction to unexploded ordnance. Why do we do things in a traditional way?

·         Tradition works. That small can of explosive made the point much more clearly than any number of charts, graphs or modern audiovisual aides could possibly do. They used this method because it worked.

·         We also use tradition because practice makes perfect. This demonstration was repeated every time a new family joined the post. They had it down to a tradition; they practiced it well.

·         Like all military personnel, our instructor would eventually be transferred off the post. By doing things in a traditional way, he was able to pass on to the next instructor that which worked well. We do the same; when we have something working well we pass it on to the next generation via tradition.

Communion benefits from the same process of tradition. We keep doing it because it works; the grace of God does not grow stale with age. It is eternal, and things eternal are often best set in tradition.

Tradition is also a way of making practice make perfect. What is it that we practice at communion?  We practice confession and repentance, for at communion a man is to examine himself before partaking.  And of all the things we do, is this not one of the most important to pass on to the next generation?

Communion is a tradition as well as a commandment, handed down to you from the time of the Apostles.  Keep the faith – and pass it along.

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