Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sacrament considerations

My elders quorum spent a few minutes discussing whether or not it was appropriate to grab a bread tray while administering the water if someone comes in late to Sacrament meeting.

It seemed that the person who brought it up objected to the practice. I argued that one can't always know what might cause a person to be late to church. One of our quorum leaders said that if we were doing it in error than we were erring on the side of consideration and not wanting anyone to feel left out. He's going to ask the Bishop for his advice on this "issue."

Yes, I put "issue" in quotations. Because I personally don't think that it is an issue. I wasn't entirely sure why something like this was even being discussed. I thought to myself, We're actually spending time discussing this? Why would someone even express concern over something so trivial? Is it really so distracting to see a priesthood holder walk back up to the Sacrament table to get a bread tray when the water is being administered? And why would they be distracted if they were not judging whoever it is that required the bread simply because they were late to church?

It's possible I'm reading too much into this but here's how I see it: the Sacrament meeting program usually reads: "Administration of the Sacrament" not "Administration of the bread" followed by "Administration of the water" so as long as the Sacrament is being administered, we might as well accommodate latecomers with all the emblems of the ordinance and not deny them over a matter of punctuality--or the lack thereof.

Which begs the question, why would anyone obsess over something so trivial? The answer is a theme that I imagine will be revisited several times in this blog: the need for certain people to embrace conformity, often to a fault. There are certain personalities that need to know without a shadow of a doubt that what they are doing is favorable in the eyes of God. Every spiritual "t" must be crossed, every "i" dotted, every bean counted.

Embracing a check-list approach to our faith can limit our ability to commune with God because stressing out over all the little things we fail to do is a surefire way to drive away the Spirit--making a fuss over the failures of others can drive away the Spirit as well. By focussing too much on outward ordinances and carnal commandments, we can lose sight of the true purpose behind them: not an expectation by God that we successfully keep all those ritualistic ducks in a row but the fact that our failure to do so is supposed to humble us and give God what he really wants from us which is a broken heart and a contrite spirit. A simple acknowledgment that we can't do it without him and to ask for his help.

Suffice it to say that God doesn't just take note of our actions--the way we treat others, the administrations of priesthood ordinances, etc.--he also notes the intent that is within our hearts. Is the administration of the sacrament, the wording of a blessing or confirmation, even the delivery of a talk or lesson going to go smoothly every time? No, of course not. But we needn't fret about our human fallibility or feel guilt over something in church or even the temple not going as smoothly as it could--anyone who has been to a live temple session in Manti or Salt Lake City knows that lines are flubbed from time to time--because, ultimately, it's what is in our hearts that matters most to our Heavenly Father because he knows better than anyone that we are not going to get things right all of the time.

UPDATE: A commenter on the Facebook page mentioned his ward in his youth actually closing the doors to the chapel and not allowing the sacrament to be passed outside, not even in the foyer. I remember my ward in California doing this as well. Again, I don't think that this is in keeping with the spirit of the ordinance. There are some people who choose not to sit in the chapel during sacrament meetings for valid reasons--various health issues, social anxiety, etc.--and they should not be penalized for it. If Priesthood holders are encouraged to take the sacrament out into the community to administer it to those individuals who are unable to come to Church at all, then why shouldn't they administer the sacrament to those who sit in the foyer?

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