Many years ago as a young probationary minister, still wearing short trousers and wet behind the ears, I was accompanying a grown up cleric who was paying house calls to some of the elderly in the parish. He had been asked beforehand if a short, informal communion service could be conducted in each of the two homes he was visiting. He readily agreed to this. I had no say in the matter being a student.
The first home we went to we discovered that they weren’t in. A neighbour popped her head out the window and informed us that Mr and Mrs had gone to visit their son in England the day before. Fair enough, it happens. Just as we approached the second home a car passed by and the driver tooted his/her horn as a grey haired occupant in the passenger’s seat gave us a wave as well as shouting a cheery, ‘Cooee.’ This salutation was made by our second prospective host. The driver didn’t stop to explain where they were going and we never had an opportunity to ask.
However thinking that I was going to be free for the rest of the afternoon I was about to utter, ‘Oh what a shame,’ when John (the grown up cleric), said, ‘Why don’t we pop in and see Mr and Mrs Smith? They just stay round the corner and I haven’t seen them for a wee while.’ I wholeheartedly agreed.
Mr Smith was in, for he answered the door and was delighted to see us but looked slightly embarrassed. He explained that he and his wife had just finished lunch and he was only just beginning to tidy up; nevertheless he didn’t keep us on the doorstep but ushered us in albeit continuing to apologise for the mess.
Mrs Smith was confined to a wheelchair and had indeed just finished her bacon and egg for the remnants were left on her plate. One tomato sauce bottle, a half drunk mug of tea and the usual luncheon utensils adorned the coffee table. A pile of ironing was lying in a basket with the board and iron set to do the business. The TV was on in the background, (the sound was turned down for our benefit). And there amid that everyday household clutter holy communion was celebrated and it was simply the most amazing experience ever.
Four adults gathered round that coffee table with the cup of wine beside the dirty luncheon plate and the bread beside the ketchup bottle – flickering images of the lunchtime newscaster could be glanced every now and again and the place was filled with an overwhelming sense of ‘a Higher Power,’ and all of us knew what it was like to be in the presence of something greater than ourselves.
We don’t just need cathedrals or churches or mission stations or chapels to find God – he/she is closer to us than we think, especially amongst the clutter and debris of our lives. But if you’re not terribly religious replace God with Hope for that too can be found and more likely in the midst of the chaos of our own personal lives.