OK. Let’s just name the elephant in the room, before we even get started.
Communion? It’s pretty wierd.
For now, though, I am just going to leave it there: admitting it’s weird. But also… wanting to add something.
Communion? It’s pretty amazing.
And right now, I am wrestling with God about this thing, communion. It means so much, almost everything. And therefore, it means so much, almost too much. It is not enough to say that there is this huge, radical spectrum of experiences that are covered by this idea: communion. At the bare minimum, there are three distinct extremes. I don’t care that it’s nonsense to say that there are three extremes to a thing. It doesn’t make it less true.
The default communion experience for me is this: Somebody used to pour out a hundred or more little cups of grape juice. They sat, precariously, in these copper plates with these little holes for the little cups. A matching plate chased this one, passed down the rows. It had broken up matza cracker.
And then, there is this left turn, to the far end of the experience, to a vertex of the triangle.
My life was beginning to fall apart shortly after I became a Christian. (I am kind of proud of that sentence right there.) I made myself space and time to simply be with my struggles and my pain. I created this sort-of retreat for myself. I left behind my worldly responsibilities. And I took this long journey up a mountain.
Actually, that last sentence was a lie. I drove down the street to my dad’s. But the rest was true.
Echoing in my head, perhaps from a recently-heard sermon, was the idea that communion can be anywhere, with anything.
At lunch time, I raided the old man’s refridgerator. Cold cuts on bread. I had a cold, so I microwaved myself tea. Lemon was the most interesting offering in his little tea-basket. I decided that this lunch was communion. I took the sandwich, his body. And the tea, not-a-wine, his blood.
I had made the tea by his microwave. I was not familiar with it. I ended with a mug full of bathwater-warm; almost hot, just above body-temperature sort-of lemon flavored water. I thought about his blood before it came into my mouth.
This barely sour, warm-but-not-hot water… it knocked me on my ass. It could not have felt more like blood if it had been.
I sat there, by myself, in this improvised ceromony. Perhaps it was something about how primal our sense of taste is. But I was just wrecked by the whole thing, the human condition, the role of Jesus.
And then, there is an extreme. I want to be careful about how I express this next part. I am not sure I am against it yet. (But to be truthful, I am getting there.)
And then, this other extreme:
During Sunday services, recently, they have begun to pass out these pre-sealed little shot glasses. Inside, of course, sits grape juice. Sealed in the top? a wafer. It feels a bit like a paper towel in my mouth. This prepackaged thing: it serves a purpose. Nonetheless, in my snarky moments, I want to call it “McCommunion.
I know that somewhere, there is a roaring assembly line. A seemingly endless trail of these things being filled up, packaged, and sent off. And a part of me finds this absurd.
And yet… it is amazing. It is amazing for the scale of it, thousands and millions of people all able to encounted the living Christ through this. The sheer scale is kind-of awesome. But also the idea that the resseructed Jesus dwells here.
The third point of this triangle:
Times with good friends, times recognizing God’s providence. Thinking about how Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Did he mean that we ought to turn his object lesson into a ritual? Or did he mean that we ought to gather together, celebrate together, in remembrance of him. Communion. Community.
These three portaits. They are a microcosm for me, right now. They are representations of this wrestling match that God and I are doing. It is not only about communion. These represent to me, little snap shots of the church itself. What we are meant to be.
I don’t know where it’s going. I only just barely get where I’ve been. If you’re keeping score, I am pretty sure he is winning.
I wonder if you can get a blessing out of these things with out getting an injury, too.