Friday, September 21, 2018
Dining With Jesus
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body."
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."
When Danny and I get engaged in 2004, he is leading the praise and worship band at his United Methodist church's contemporary service in which I will later participate. It requires a bit of getting used to for me, as I am coming from the Episcopal church, where the word "contemporary" is a huge no-no in light of the staid liturgical tradition. Honestly, it doesn't take me too long to embrace, wholeheartedly, this energetic and uplifting way to worship God. But there is one ritual I have a great deal of difficulty leaving behind: the weekly observance of the Lord's Supper.
The Holy Eucharist, or Mass, as my Catholic brothers and sisters call it, is the focal point of the Episcopal/Anglican Sunday service. The sermon takes a serious back seat; I once heard an Episcopal priest say, "If the minister preaches over seven minutes, he doesn't understand his congregation's 'fanny time.'" Not so in the modern United Methodist church! With Communion happening only once a month, the pastor is not only free to be long-winded, but is encouraged to be so. Needless to say, my fanny needs significant tweaking in those first weeks of attending Kennesaw United Methodist!
After I get over the initial shock of the once-a-month celebration of the Lord's Supper, I realize, to my chagrin, how much I have taken this commemoration of Jesus' new covenant for granted. Now, with only being able to partake in the bread and the cup every four weeks, I anticipate this sacrament with renewed joy and thankfulness.
So, when Pastor Graham asks me to assist him in serving Communion recently, I am beside myself with enthusiasm! What could be better than sharing with and serving others the body and blood of Christ Jesus on such a personal level?
But I'm not prepared, in any way, shape or form, for the impact this this service has upon my very being.
As the individual members of the congregation approach to receive the bread from Pastor Graham and the cup from me, I meet their gazes and say to each one, "The blood of Christ, shed for you." Their eyes give me an unprecedented glimpse into their souls. Therein, I see the gamut of emotions: unbridled joy, uncertainty of worthiness, worries concealed beneath lids closed, tears flowing with gratefulness.
I witness it all. My own eyes threaten to spill over with the empathetic love and connection I experience with my fellow Christians, those seeking to follow Jesus just as I do. Those whose experiences, conditions and challenges I can only guess at in that brief, yet unforgettable, moment of relationship.
A relationship that miraculously transcends time and place. We are at the table of Jesus. In His presence. Dining with Him.
We are one in the Spirit, and one in the Lord.
As our nation goes through perhaps the most divisive time we have ever endured since the Civil War, may we all remember that we are God's children, and loved by Him beyond measure. May we love each other as Jesus commanded, forgetting our differences and focusing on our similarities.
Jesus has set the table for all. Will you accept His invitation to dine?
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