Having been married to a minister for almost twelve years, you’d think I’d be old hat at serving communion. I’m not though. As a matter of fact, two weeks ago, I served communion in our church for the first time. I stood alongside my husband as congregants came forth. Corey held the bread in its linen shroud and I held the chalice of grape juice.
The reason I love taking communion by intinction is also the reason for it’s unique level of awkwardness – especially when people come forward one by one rather than kneeling in groups with their hands cupped in expectation. As each person stepped up, I heard my husband say, “The body of Christ, broken for you.”
And then, the person was in front of me. My mouth opened automatically. “The blood of Christ, shed for you.”
Such powerful words. How could I be saying them? More than 2000 years after this Jewish baby was born to a virgin, I stand in a carpeted room, holding pottery, and casually offering friends and strangers the opportunity to…
drink His blood?
It’s no wonder so many people thought the early Christians were wack-jobs. I mean, seriously? Eat me. Drink me. Lewis Carroll hadn’t even written Alice yet.
As I settled into the routine, holding out the cup, repeating the words, I began noticing the people. Some of them stepped up boldly, dipped their hunk of bread deep into the juice and popped it into their mouths like double fudge brownies with a chick-flick. I liked that. More Jesus? Yes, please.
Some people were timid. They barely touched the tip of the bread to the juice, more ritual than meal. Some of them met my eyes and some looked only at their hands, the cup, the floor, the small child on their hip. Some of the kids grinned. Some of the kids hurried. One man reached forward, took the cup and my hands inside his own large palms and put his mouth to the rim. He drank deeply. He smiled.
Later, I would think of him a lot, how he approached the Eucharist with confidence and joy. Is that also how he approaches the other aspects of his faith? I wondered. If so, what does this say for the people who did not meet my eyes and the people who timidly touched their bread to the juice?
When I pray and worship, do I come to Jesus boldly, smiling as I raise Him to my lips? Am I unsure of my faith? Am I unsure of my worthiness in His presence?
Then again, perhaps I read them wrong. What I saw as timidness may have been reverence. For some, the act of touching that fresh-baked bread to the dark red juice was pure holiness. It required downcast eyes and awareness of whose life and death they partook. Do I remember He is holy? Aren’t I sometimes flippant in my faith, tossing it aside when it gets too cumbersome? Do I look at wine and really see blood? Or, as a minister I know says to small children taking communion, do I want just “a little snack from Jesus?”
I am honored by the experience of serving. I knew that I would be. What I didn’t know to expect was the open door into people’s spirits. The Eucharist, it turns out, is the most intimate act available within church walls. In that simple sharing of bread and fruit, we not only touch the Savior, we also meet our family, becoming part of one another in big bites and deep drafts, in small nibbles and tender touches.
Truly, we are one.