I have taught many a confirmation class over my 37 years of ministry. We always have a class on “The Sacraments”. I always tell them a “Sacrament is … A visible sign of an invisible grace”. Meaning it is when we use something tangible to illustrate something intangible; like water at Baptism and Bread at Communion. That’s right, in the United Church we have two sacraments – Baptism, when we use water to show God’s love and blessing through touching the forehead with water (mirroring Jesus baptism in the Jordan River) and – Communion, when we use bread and grape juice to show God’s nurture and to remind us of Christ’s last meal with his apostles. Other denominations have more sacraments but for us it is just those two. Baptism and Communion.
Many of you know that I have been having a bit of a tough time at home. My beloved has Dementia and the strong, vital, intelligent man he was is slowly disappearing before my eyes. As I think back over the past months and few years as the disease has gained its foothold I realize that I have experienced moments with him that, for me now, feel like sacramental moments. It struck me the last time he tried to fish and just couldn’t figure out how to thread the line and couldn’t manage to fling the line out into the water. I realized that he would likely never again enjoy that pastime that, for decades, was his passion. I look at the last shrubs he planted in our garden and know that planting, fertilizing and weeding a garden, something that was his domain for all our married life are tasks he can no longer manage. I see advertisements for the plays at the Stratford Summer Festival and I know that our annual summer excursion to enjoy a couple of plays is now only a memory.
So many things that we enjoyed together, so many things we took for granted are now moments and activities that we will not do together again. I am not trying to sound overly dramatic or maudlin here. But as I think back I realize the preciousness of that last time when we did a certain something not in any way realizing that it was the last time we could enjoy that activity or moment together. They feel tinged with sacramental power.
There are lots of inspirational sayings and reminders (especially on Facebook!!!) that we should cherish the moment. I have told people that myself. But the reality is that it is not really until it is taken away that you realize just how very precious it was. Given this, it is no surprise that the last supper that the apostles had with Jesus, the last time they broke bread together, the last time they sat at table together, a memory of their last event together that they could cling to, became within Christian practice, a sacrament, a sign of deep and abiding love. A visible sign of the love of God as lived through the person of Jesus.
Every moment, every encounter, every relationship is rich with the potential to be sacramental. Notice them, cherish them, remember them.