You have to understand, I am not an Anglican.
I was raised as a Pentecostal, so now that I am worshipping at a very charismatic, community-loving, Jesus-serving local Anglican church, I don’t always know the ropes. I have to observe, listen, and watch very closely.
Because sometimes, you get asked to do something a cradle-Anglican would do very easily, but which I have to think about.
Take this morning. Palm Sunday. I had been asked to preach (always an honour), and had sought God earnestly concerning what to bring on one of the church’s very special commemorative days, but a day I suspected they had heard many sermons about before.
No surprise then that I was delighted that the Worship Leader and band had sorted their part of the service, our vicar was leading, everyone seemed to be ok. I just had to preach… didn’t I?
Then it was mentioned that the preacher at a Communion service, if different from the vicar, usually does the “2nd plate”. First of all, I gathered that this was something to do with Communion, and that I was going to be asked to help offer the bread to those taking Communion.
Flustered is not the word. First of all, there are special words you are supposed to use as you hand over the bread; “The body of Christ keep you in eternal life”. Or was it “keeps”? I checked beforehand. (It’s “keep”). Then I realised that I had to gently break off a piece of bread for everyone who came forward and place it in their hand as they held their eager palms towards me. If they kept their hands down, it meant that they did not want to take communion, but needed a prayer of blessing. And then if a Child was brought forward, you pray a prayer of blessing over them…
I managed to get through the preach, and then it was Communion. Our vicar called me forwards, as I gathered I was supposed to take Communion with him before serving everyone else. Amazing how you can attend the church for over 2 years and only just pick up this apparently seamless way of doing things!
Anyway, I stood next to him, and our vicar gently whispered to me “Pat, can you just take three small steps back, please?”
Mortified that I was in the wrong place, I took 3 steps back. Only then did I remember that there are always 4 people serving Communion, one each for wine and bread, for each of the two sides. The other 2 servers had gently come out and stood behind me, then shuffled slightly so that we could all receive Communion together, and only then move to our positions to serve.
I was definitely flustered. Apart from the fact that in trying to pray a blessing for one babe-in-arms, I used the pronoun “he”, when I knew it was a gorgeous little person called Hannah, it seemed to go smoothly. Afterwards, I quietly sat down next to my husband, so glad that my responsibilities for the morning were now over, and whispered about the three steps. “Oh, that was only so that the others could get in place as well”, he said.
In a moment of clarity, The Spirit whispered to me” Sometimes I need you to move 3 steps away in other areas, too. That gives me the space to move”
We all want to keep moving forward, trying to fix things that come our way, and getting flustered and frustrated when things go wrong. At such times, it is worth taking a moment to check if you need to stop gripping so tightly, move 3 steps away, and allow God’s Spirit some wiggle room.
He just might surprise you…
Lozenge moment… (something to savour and consider)…
How often do you try to fix something in your own strength?
How can you change your thinking and behaviour, to give precedence to God’s Spirit, who can affect the change you cannot make?
3 steps back is not a backwards step; it just creates space. Do not think of it as failure; think of it as deference.