I must admit that I’ve rarely been very taken with the sacrament ordinance. Perhaps it’s because the mundane nature of deacons with untucked shirts and overly-long ties doesn’t mesh well with my high-church sensibilities, or perhaps it’s because sacrament meetings for the last seven years have mostly consisted of trying to keep my children reasonably quiet, but I’ve tended to side with Ralph Waldo Emerson who believed the ritual a bit too “dead” for his living faith. My family’s penchant for a lack of punctuality typically means we stay out in the foyer Sunday mornings, anyway. Which is usually fine with me.
But I confess that I was surprisingly moved by a sacrament service this morning in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Stake Center. Maybe it was the disruptive nature of the service when compared to a typical sacrament meeting: rather than traditional Church dress, most everyone was in yellow t-shirts and jeans. Maybe it was the condensed length of the gathering: we were dismissed within fifty minutes. (If only that were more common!) Maybe it was the privilege to hear from esteemed non-Mormon dignitaries: speakers included Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden and Louisiana Governor John Edwards. And to be honest, maybe it was because I didn’t have to look after my two small kids, who were over five hours away in Texas with my patient wife. But the most likely reason was the broader context of the service itself. As over a thousand men and women, gathered from hundreds of miles away, piled into the chapel and cultural hall overflow, behind us were boxes and boxes of bottled water, yard tools, clothing and food donations, and lots of LDS Helping Hands t-shirts of all sizes. The hands that were passing and taking the sacrament were the same hands that spent all of yesterday ripping up floorboards that were warped, tearing down walls that grew mold, and removing debris that were ruined by the record-setting floods of recent weeks that damaged or destroyed over sixty thousand homes. After the service the hands would once again return to work. Many will return again next weekend and the weekend after that.
In his remarks at the service, Governor Edwards said that what was remarkable about the storm that caused all the destruction was that it came out of nowhere. It hadn’t be tracked for days over the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico and garnered widespread fear and concern. Rather, it was an “Unnamed Storm.” As a result, it did not receive the same attention in the national news typically associated with natural disasters. But it didn’t go completely unheard. The Governor quoted from our own hymn book to note that we, as “children of God,” were sent here to help out our “brothers and sisters” who were in need. There is no “unnamed storm” in God’s family. The hymn “Called to Serve,” which we sung in conclusion as an army of yellow shirts eager to work, took on new meaning.
Partaking of the bread and water in remembrance of the body of Christ seamlessly blended with serving the downtrodden members of the body of God. That’s a sacramental message I find moving.