Three times each week we have Eucharist in our Chapel which is on the Perry Street side of the church right across from Jenkins Tire. As I stand at the front of the chapel and face the congregation I can see through the chapel door windows and watch, and hear, big truck tires being changed. Once, right when I was laying hands on someone at our Healing Eucharist on a Thursday, a truck tire exploded across the street with a loud BOOM. Both the recipient of the prayer and I, startled, jumped a couple of inches. This morning I heard the pneumatic wrench loosening and tightening lug nuts as I was reading the prayer of consecration. Each of us has his work to do. One of our weekday services is at 5:30 and the store is usually closed by then so I don’t hear as much from over there but I see the big pile of tires showing their work of the day.
For some years now the tire shop and St. John’s have done our work closely situated with each other. And perhaps celebrating the Holy Eucharist and changing tires have some things in common.
Melody Beattie writes in her classic devotional book The Language of Letting Go, that relationships are where the rubber meets the road in our spiritual journeys. Her point is basically that we all have our own relationship with God. We take things to God, we receive things from God, we have our breakthroughs and feel equipped to meet our various worlds. Then we carry what we have learned in our time apart with God into our relationships with families, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. And that’s where things get a little complicated. We meet various bumps and potholes and we go back to God to sort all that out. We don’t learn things in our times devoted to God in a vacuum. After we have an insight we carry it into our relationships where we really learn the lesson. Often we see we haven’t learned the lesson quite as well as we need to. Or maybe better said, we learn the lesson with God and as we apply it in our relationships there is the inevitable friction as we interact with others. After some repeated friction we need a tire change, so to speak, and we return to God a little wounded. God does his healing work and puts us back on the road. Notice that God doesn’t really like us parking ourselves in the garage: he wants us out there with the rest of the world. Eventually we learn a healthy rhythm of wear and repair. Our relationships wear on us. God provides new wheels and sends us back out.
If you’ll forgive the crass analogy, receiving Communion is a bit like a tire change. We receive the Eucharist to know Christ’s love deep within us. It renews us and the Eucharist always ends with us being sent back out into the world. We don’t receive the sacrament only to feel closer to God. We receive it so as to engage in the work of community. Communion with God leads to communion with God’s people.
I see a lot of horrible looking tires on the road, ones that are bald and have been ridden on for far too many miles, ones that are wobbling around way out of balance. Maybe you’ve noticed that a new set of tires lasts a whole lot longer and drives a whole lot smoother when they are rotated and balanced every 5,000 miles. Sometimes we feel like we don’t really have time to do that kind of maintenance so we just keep on driving and piling up the miles. That will catch up to us eventually.
One of my favorite things about the Episcopal Church is the regular celebrations of the Eucharist. We try to not let you go too long without Communion because we know it is great rubber for the hard roads you drive on in life.
It’s probably not a good idea for me to encourage you to look at the Church as your spiritual mechanic where you only visit when you need a tune-up or new tires. But there is that offering from our Lord that, as we gather in his name to receive the sacrament, we are strengthened for the other parts of our journey. This much is true. Your spiritual tires need regular care and periodic replacement. The Body and Blood of Christ, regularly received, allows us to be a vehicle of grace and renewal in the world around us.
Don’t come to church to hide from the world. Come here to worship and be renewed. Don’t come here merely as an individual needing new equipment. Come here to participate in community so that you may learn how to be in communion out there in the world.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.