Welcome to communion! This oldest expression of Christian worship stumps many of us with its theology, meaning, and rules. And that was before we had to worry about celiac disease! We know you have plenty of questions—that’s why we’re here.
I don’t even know where to start.
Yes, communion’s a doozy, isn’t it? Nothing says” awkward” more than knowing people would be shocked if you touched a cracker unworthily.
I mean, part of me wonders if Catholics have a point. One of my Catholic friends was waxing poetic about the mystery of transubstantiation, and ever since then, the whole “it’s all symbolic” thing feels a little cheap. What if I’m wrong?
You’d like to be absolutely clear on what kind of mystery you’re celebrating?
I just want to know I’m not doing communion wrong. Believing communion wrong.
Broken for you. Shed for you.
Now you’re just being cryptic.
Sorry. Communion brings that out in us. Maybe this: do you have to have anxiety about something someone else is accomplishing in you?
I can have anxiety about pretty much anything.
Point taken. Okay, what if Jesus’ body was broken for the moment when you’re in church, wondering how to take his body with any sort of integrity?
That seems a pretty lame reason for him to die.
It doesn’t rise to the level of systemic racism, no, but do you really have to achieve good-enough brokenness? You’ve got to achieve enough brokenness to justify throwing yourself at his feet RIGHT NOW?
I feel like we’re getting off topic here.
Okay, then, communion. You’re in the pew. The pastor is repeating that passage from Corinthians. You prepare a strategy for any intinction/tray passing/cracker-vs-real-bread puzzles. And then it’s your turn to grab a morsel. Do you do it glad or hesitant?
If I’m honest, hesitant.
Honesty’s good. So what makes you hesitate?
How do I make it count? How do I make it anything other than bread and juice-instead-of-wine? Why do I always feel like I’m going through the motions and doing it because I’m supposed to?
Is it up to you to manufacture your own mystery? Do you have to make yourself worthy enough to be saved from yourself? Do you see the paradox? Why not let Jesus worry about whether you’re acceptable enough? What if you let go of all forms of spit-shining your soul and just took the damn bread?
Wasn’t I supposed to ask the questions here? Anyway, I don’t know–is it really that easy?
If you accept and embrace the idea there’s nothing to prove to the Christ, you might reach for that bread like someone starved.
But it’s still just bread. What does it mean for me to eat it, exactly?
Well, if we could explain it perfectly, we wouldn’t need it, would we? But try this: Anytime you move your body to reach for something Christ offers, it is a miracle. Can you cultivate gratitude for the opportunity to practice that with something as simple as bread on Sunday? And just ask Jesus to do what he can with you showing up?
I mean, I know faith is a “practice” but I guess I sometimes forget to take that literally.
Oh, we do too. But it’s worth reminding ourselves of. Maybe communion is some kind of dinner party we’re rehearsing until eternity so the idea of “family-style” takes hold. Maybe communion is more about working muscle memory down into our bones. What if it’s not a pop quiz of holiness?
So I can practice giving in instead of measuring up?
Thanks…now that I think about, each chunk of bread could just be a baby step forward.
What we meant, exactly. Can we pray for you? Jesus, we’re in this moment seeking communion with you, reaching out trembling hands that don’t know what they’re doing. Lord, we thank you that you have empowered us to do even this. We lean into the mystery of not having to understand exactly what we’re doing, or exactly how it can transform us. We pray that our shaking hands, and the morsels of bread, and the drop of wine will remind us that you start with the lost, the incompetent, the bewildered, the brokenhearted. Amen.
Image credit: Leeroy