It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all
It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
Let it go, let it go
I am one with the wind and sky
Let it go, let it go
You’ll never see me cry
Here I stand and here I stay
Let the storm rage on
The cold never bothered me anyway
(Copywrite The Walt Disney Company)
I have a confession to make about a guilty pleasure of mine. Here it goes. I love Broadway show tunes. Maybe part of it is that I find it amusing to think of people breaking out into song without any reasonable expectation. Imagine looking at the newspaper with your friends, going over the odds for the Kentucky Derby, and one of you breaks into song: “I’ve got a horse right here, his name is Paul Revere…” It’s almost so absurd that it becomes realistic! I also think Broadway performers have incredible singing abilities, and music adds so much emotion to the storytelling. One of my favorite performers is Idena Menzel, dubbed by some to be the “Queen of Broadway”. Idena has performed as Elphaba in Wicked, Maureen in Rent, and Elizabeth in If/Then. She won Tony awards for all of these roles. She also has appeared in television’s Glee and she voiced the role of Elsa in Disney’s animated hit Let it Go. In fact, you may have found yourself singing along to the lyrics from the song of the same name, posted above this paragraph.
If you watch the fireworks at a Disney Park these days, you will notice every young person’s voice sing at full volume when Idena’s rendition of Let it Go pipes through the speaker system. What is it about this song that captures so many hearts? Certainly, Idena Menzel has a beautiful voice. But the song also has important content. It’s content that I think Christians need to be mindful of to keep us from getting too “stuck” in our liturgical practices. Sometimes it’s important for us to take mental inventory of our worship practices, and when something doesn’t work for us any more, it’s ok to “let it go!”
There is a reason we place emotional energy into our liturgical practices. They’re important! And it’s important that we maintain an awareness of reverence, appreciation, and mysticism within our worship. We like things to be tidy and neat. Our brains feel good when we notice that things can be packaged neatly “in a box.” But sometimes our world is messy and our boxes don’t all line up nicely. Surely anyone who has seen my desk knows that my boxes are anything but tidy. In fact, I could benefit from being a bit more tidy. But what are we to do when our experiences don’t match up nicely with the way things should be? I think in times like these, we can turn to our friend Idena Menzel and heed her advice: Let it go.
Mysticism itself means a willingness to “let it go.” Have you ever heard someone say, “Let go and let God”? How about, “Trust the process”? These mean God is in the driver seat. They aren’t to say we shouldn’t care or we shouldn’t put in effort to make things nice and neat. They do, however, give us assurance that when things are not nice and neat, they’ll still be ok. An example of something that is not nice and neat is our new communion bread we began using at St. John’s.
You likely have noticed that the bread we use during communion is not perfect. The loaves aren’t perfectly round. They don’t break into even pieces. The pieces themselves tend to crumble a bit more than wafers do. What do we do if a few crumbs from the communion bread fall on the floor? Are we supposed to pick them up and eat them? What if crumbs fall between the kneeler cushions? What are we supposed to do then?
In cases such as these, it is important to be mindful of our Anglican Eucharistic theology, which teaches the Real Presence of Jesus Christ exists in the Eucharistic elements. We also can acknowledge that if we do our best to receive communion reverently and respectfully, God remains in charge. While we ought to be careful to prevent bread crumbs to fall on the floor, we understand that this simply might happen. If it does, we can rest assured that God is in the driver seat. God is in charge. On the night Jesus instituted the Blessed Sacrament of his Body and Blood, he did not follow any guidelines given to him by an ecclesial body. He simply took bread and wine, common food and drink of his people, blessed them, and gave them to his disciples. He told them to “do this in memory of me.” We don’t hear anything in the gospels about what happened to the crumbs left on the plate. We don’t hear anything about the disciples going to the sacristy to purify the cups before doing the dishes. We don’t hear anything about him panicking if some of the bread was not consumed. Indeed our Book of Common Prayer tells us, “If any of the consecrated Bread or Wine remain, apart from any which may be required for the Communion of the sick, or of others who for weighty cause could not be present at the celebration, or for the administration of Communion by a deacon to a congregation when no priest is available, the celebrant or deacon, and other communicants, reverently eat and drink it, either after the Communion of the people or after the Dismissal” (BCP pp 408-409). This is the only instruction we are given. We are not told that we ought to pour remaining Wine down the piscina. We are not told that we can feed leftover Bread to the birds. We are not told that we can pour Wine in the bushes. Yet many of these are common practices. And God remains in the driver seat. I have yet to hear of anyone being struck by lightning for doing any of the above.
We treat the Eucharistic elements with respect because within them the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ are truly present. As reverent and respectful as we can be, we simply cannot ever be completely perfect. And that’s part of the beauty of the simplicity. We use common bread and common wine because that’s what Jesus told us to do. We can be assured that when he told us to do it, he knew there would be a possibility that bread crumbs or wine droplets would fall upon the ground. If he’s ok with it, we can be, too. Having grown up an altar boy in a strict parish, I have had to go through some deprogramming to become ok with the reality that some crumbs may fall to the ground. We can do our best, but we’re not perfect. Only God is perfect. The next time we receive communion, if we’re concerned that some crumbs might fall on the floor, we might need to put our trust in God and remember everything will be ok. In the words of Elsa from Frozen. Let it go.