Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Jelly Sandwich Jesus

Today was my first Communion Sunday in quite some time. When I was still in school at Mizzou, I was going to a Presbyterian church where the Supper was served weekly. Since school has been out, however, my family and I have been attending a United Methodist church where Communion is celebrated monthly. For whatever reason, for the past three months or so, we had missed each Communion Sunday. I hadn't been sacramentally fed Jesus in awhile, and I didn't eat breakfast this morning, so I was hungry in both a spiritual and a physical sense today. I could not help but smile in amusement as the hunger pangs first started kicking in as the people in the sanctuary begin processing forward to receive the Lord. This seems to me one of those delightful little coincidences in life that can't just be mere coincidence. I know. I didn't eat breakfast is what you're thinking, but God actually told me not to.

No, I'm joking. I rarely eat breakfast as it is. But that's beside the point. I find it amazing that God uses the particular circumstances of our lives to bless us in ways that uniquely make sense to us. I’m a details person, so these types of things really fascinate me. It also fascinates me the way that particular communities of faith and particular Christian traditions do the Jesus thing. Of course, all of us do the Jesus thing, but God has blessed the Christian faith with a great deal of diversity and beauty of detail in the ways we come together to worship our Lord. We each have something that is unique and special that God has put upon our hearts to uniquely express to the world in our worship. I had never taken the Supper in a Methodist church, so I was anxious to see how these brothers and sisters express Christ in the sacrament. Of course, I also recognized that each congregation has its own flavor, so there is really no such thing as a particularly Baptist way of having the Supper, or a Presbyterian way, or a Methodist way.

This service was unique to me in just about every way. In the Baptist, Restorationist, and Presbyterian congregations I've received Communion in, the elements are brought to the worshipers and passed down the aisles and across the rows by the deacons. Today, however, I had the privilege of going forward to the altar in a procession line to receive Christ. As my little sister and I waited for it to be our turn for our row to get into the line, I looked at all the people as they filtered across the rows and up the aisle, infants in the arms of their parents, little children, old men and women, teens, married couples with children and without children, singles, blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, wide-awake, half-asleep, intent, zealous, and bored. Each of these wonderful manifestations of the image of God with their own stories and experiences and lives, each of them loved by God, each of them sinners whom Christ gave his body and blood for, all processing forward in unity one with another and with the Christ present in us and among us and in the bread and wine. There was no blessing, no words, no liturgy that I have come to love, but, in spite of my willingness to find shortcomings and things averse to my preferences in the Church, in spite of my smallness of person, I was able to appreciate the fact that no words of blessing were needed. The rite stood for itself, blessing the participants with its simplicity and grace, bringing us together to be one all together with our Lord.

At the front of each line going up the middle of the sanctuary stood two servers, one holding a bowl of what had to be little pieces of Wonder bread and the other holding a chalice filled with grape juice. Each Christian reached into the bowl and selected a piece of manna and then dipped it into the fruit of the vine. Jesus like a grape jelly sandwich, I thought. Then it was our turn, Samantha and I. Instead of one little piece of bread, she grabbed two. Instead of one dip, she dipped twice. Instead of just feeding herself with the body and blood of the Lord, she fed me as well. I thought of how our weaknesses, when put in proper perspective, simply mean that we have opportunity to serve one another and to show gratitude to one another. I smiled at my baby sister and thought of how Jesus took on the weakness and smallness of human flesh and offered it up in death so that he could serve us with eternal life. What a picture of the Kingdom of God and its priorities. A faith community in a little town in the Midwest, coming together to share a simple little meal in celebration of Jesus Christ becoming small for us and the Church's response of likewise becoming small to serve Christ and one another.

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