Midweek Message: "Upstairs – Downstairs: Reflections on Sacramental Living"

Week of the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Dear Friends in Christ:

For a few weeks now, we’ve returned to the privilege of worshiping upstairs in our nave – again, I say, thanks be to God. But the rest of our building is also open for creative use as well. Thus, I want to share with you thoughts on a lovely event that took place downstairs in our fellowship hall on Saturday evening, July 17.

Throughout the time of the pandemic, our Christian Education Committee has been meeting almost monthly via Zoom to continue to plan events and programs for Christian faith formation in our congregation. Of course, most of these initiatives have been creatively virtual. Given the current waning nature of the pandemic in our area, we wanted to host an event for and with our younger members in person. The plan was to undertake activities outdoors on the parsonage deck, patio, and yard. Mother Nature had other weather-related plans last Saturday evening with the threat of rain.

Here’s what happened, then, downstairs in the fellowship hall: just over 25 children and adults gathered for grilled hot dogs, among other picnic-style foods, and then, once fed, we all formed an assembly line to decorate and fill 120 paper bags with comparatively healthy snack foods to support the Arlington Housing Corporation’s summer tutoring efforts with children of low-income families in our area. The snacks are provided to keep kids energized while doing their homework during in-person summer camp. Arlington Housing Corporation, by the way, is a non-profit developer of affordable housing for low-income families and individuals in our region.

This three hour or so (when you count set up and clean up) represents our beginning to return to normal and routine programming beyond Sunday worship in the life of our congregation. But here’s what else I see as your pastor, as one called to teach about the bigger picture of how God is active in our life together, how the varied ministries of the church hold together in Christ. The tables we set with food for participants and the tables that comprised the focus of the assembly line to fill snack bags were all extensions downstairs of the table set directly upstairs that hosts Christ’s presence under the forms of bread and wine in the sacrament of the altar. Thus, upstairs links with downstairs as an extension of the sacrament, as an expression of ongoing sacramental living, when we go from one table to the others and back again. To put it more simply, we are fed by Christ upstairs so that we are energized downstairs for the work of feeding others who dwell well beyond the walls of our church building.

This simple event that took place Saturday evening links our congregation with our wider community and its varied organizations, in this case, Arlington Housing Corporation. And through this organizational linkage, God’s people at Resurrection, younger and older, were linked with God’s people among the low-income children and families of our area. It’s a beautiful occasion revealing our interdependence with people in our wider communities, even if we’ll never meet in person those who benefit from our ministry of diakonia, of loving serving to neighbors in need.

Resurrection Church is consistently very generous in our financial support of a wide variety of community social service organizations. On Saturday evening, July 17, over twenty-five of us put some skin in the game, as it were, in volunteering time and energy in person to benefit others. I hope and pray that there will be other such occasions when our members can volunteer their time and talents in person beyond our financial generosity in sending donations to benefit those in need.

The activities on Saturday evening were fun. Our younger ones had occasion to interact with each other again, albeit while wearing masks. Adults got to connect with each other, too, in socializing conversations. And the generations interacted together, when a number of adults, myself included, sat at the tables decorating the brown paper bags and getting in line to fill them with snacks. Saturday evening became for me a kind of fulfillment of my vision for ministries at Resurrection – different age groups working together in fun ways to also benefit those in need in our wider community. And all of this flowed from the fact that we gather each Sunday at our table upstairs to receive Christ so that we can adjourn downstairs to other tables to do the work – God’s work, our hands – that makes a contribution to the sacred mission of feeding and healing the world, one small step at a time. Thus it is that the ordinary becomes extraordinary as normal routine and churchly activities reveal their holiness. I thought you’d like to know!

In Jesus’ name,

Pastor Jonathan Linman