We have gotten down to many of out “lasts.” Whether it is preparing for my final worship service or staff meeting, there is a part of me which is unable to wrap my brain around this sudden finitude. While it felt like September would never end, so far October has been a blur. There are so many lose ends to take care of that it is hard to stay focused on any one thing. Though It has been exciting to meet the people who are replacing our unit, I can’t help feeling sorry that they have to stay here while we go home.
More than any other aspect of deployment, I will miss Sunday worship and the small, but faithful group who gathered each week to celebrate Holy Communion. When I arrived in Bagram almost a year ago, I had trepidation over starting my own service. I had never planned worship without the watchful eye of a senior pastor nor had I been responsible for preaching every week. Every time a Sunday would roll around those first months, I wondered if people would even show up.
Slowly, though, the service went from a random assortment of individuals to true congregation. We all knew who to expect and took note if someone was missing, not to create any guilt but instead to let them know their absence was noticed. I started looking forward to Sunday mornings because I knew that it would be a time for all of us, including myself, to regroup after another long week. Somehow, I came up with a sermon by Sunday morning, often being inspired into the wee hours of Sunday morning. I always took comfort that the center of our worship was not my words but was our celebration of the Lord’s Super. Whenever I saw people squirming in their chairs, I reminded myself that they would leave the service with Jesus’ words, not my own, most fresh in their minds-- Whenever you eat this bread or drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death, until He comes again. This reminder was what we all needed more than any words I could offer.
Over these last few weeks, I have been wondering how I will find normalcy again after this experience. I have recognized all the ways that I am distancing myself from the routine I have known for almost a year, and I have forced myself to do things that make me remember who I am and what I love, despite this year away. As I have prepared for this final worship service for World Communion Sunday, I have remembered what I have known all along. No matter where I have been in the world, taking part in communion has been my normal. Coming to God’s holy table, kneeling at the rail or standing at the altar, crossing my hands to take a bit of bread and a sip of the cup, this is the closest thing to home I will ever know.
This Sunday, in ancient cathedrals and in makeshift shacks, all around the world, the church will celebrate God’s saving love in Jesus Christ. From east and west, north and south, people will come to God’s table, hands cupped and hearts ready to be filled with a peace which surpasses all human understanding. Through the Holy Spirit, we will be joined with God’s family of every time and place, with those who have passed away and those who are still to come. We will remember, most importantly, God’s gift of everlasting life.