Certainly swine flu is in the air. Every TV news show and every radio program or newspaper seems to have some mention of its spread. Don’t touch! Have no human contact! You don’t want to get sick.
There is some wisdom in this. As diseases spread, we must take reasonable cautions to guard ourselves and our loved ones from sickness and disease.
But what about at church?
Are we to avoid shaking hands, or even stay away from the Body and Blood of Christ for fear of harm to ourselves or others? Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind as we move forward in faith and trust:
1. God would not command us to take eat, and drink in order to harm us. “In Him we live and move and have our being,” as St. Paul reminds us. God is greater than a virus. He who numbers the hairs on our heads (Matthew 6) will not command us to do something in order to hurt us.
2. It is not “tempting God” to trust HIs Word that we receive His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.
3. The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta has said on more than one occasion that the use of the chalice is actually more sanitary than individual cups. If you are not convinced or if this continues to cause you concern, by all means receive from the individual cup instead. [ed: When I wrote this article I couldn’t find my reference on this one. I am very happy to be corrected if I’m wrong on it.]
4. There is a greater chance of communicating a disease through a handshake than through the Sacrament of the Altar.
5. If you cannot in good conscience receive the Sacrament because you are afraid, then don’t. I will be more than happy to commune you privately, if that is your wish.
6. I am also happy to receive a “holy wave” after church instead of a handshake, if you prefer.
7. There is something to be said for “sharing our mutual woes”, as the hymn exclaims. Bearing one another’s burdens is part and parcel to being a Christian. This is not an excuse to be foolish or unsanitary, but neither should we be afraid of each other.
Those are my thoughts on the subject right now. I am happy to speak with anyone about it if that would be helpful. God be with you this season, and stay healthy AND forgiven!