And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19 ESV
Last time we talked about how much people need for us to serve communion at their nursing home. This week we are going to look a little deeper into what exactly God has in His heart for nursing home ministry as a whole. When Jesus first gave us the sacrament of communion He summed it up with the phrase; “Do this in remembrance of me.” The act of communion which is blessed and holy; is still only an avenue by which we are remembering our connection with Jesus. What really matters is not the ritual; but the relationship which the ritual is meant to remind us of.
In that same way; it is important to not only serve communion; but to remember that everything we do in ministry is to bring people into relationship with Jesus Christ. The bread and the wine are regular reminders the of the cross; our forgiveness and salvation in Christ. As one part of the body of Christ our job is to also act as reminders of God’s grace. We should use whatever means; opportunities and talents that we have; including bringing in the communion meal; to build relationships that help people connect to Jesus Christ.
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 1 Corinthians 11:26 NIV
Welcome to New Beginnings in 2020. This year we will begin by revisiting the subject of serving communion at long term care facilities. Parts of today’s post were published last year but I wanted to begin again on that subject for those who are just now starting to get involved in nursing home outreach. Most of us on the outside have the choice of receiving communion whenever we want. But for a nursing home resident the opportunity is limited to someone being willing to bring it in. So why is it any less vital to serve communion at a nursing home than it is at church?
My personal acquaintance with nursing home ministry goes back thirty years and spans five different facilities where I have served. My first attempt at bringing in the communion ended in near disaster when the cork from the bottle of naturally carbonated grape juice popped off and whizzed across the room! Back then I had a team member from our church who helped me pass out the elements to the 6 or 8 people gathered in our small meeting. But over the years our attendance grew but my fellow volunteer had scheduling issues that left me to serve alone. At first I begged an occasional helper from church to come help; but sadly for a long time I simply gave up on the practice.
“I just wish I had someone to help me pass out communion.” I complained one day to Erin the activities director at Allied Services. “Why can’t we help you pass out the cups and the bread, Pastor Pete?” Erin asked with surprise.
“Oh no it’s okay. I’ll find somebody.” I said. But what I really wanted was for people from my own church to serve communion. A couple of months passed after Erin’s first offer till I went back to her office. “Would your people really be willing to help me pass out the communion today?” I asked humbly.
“No problem Pastor Pete!” she said smiling. Why was it such a big issue for me to ask for such a small favor? Maybe it was just a matter of pride, or just a general lack of awareness of the needs of our group. By that time the meeting had grown to over twenty people. What a blessing it was to have workers who knew them by name and could know if they had physical issues which could prevent them from safely receiving the bread or the cup. From then, on at least once a month, any resident who wished to receive communion was given the opportunity.
So if you are involved in nursing home ministry and would like to begin bringing in the Lord’s Supper next week we’ll look at a few practical steps that can help you get started.