My husband, TC’s first assignment in his church planting internship was at a large church in Arlington, MA that much like New City, served communion every Sunday. Every week, the pastor would read from 1 Corinthians about how Jesus took the bread and the cup and proclaimed, “this is my body, this is my covenant take, eat, do this in remembrance of me.” Every week he’d invite us to the tables, stations around the sanctuary, like the stations we have set up now, where leaders and their spouses would serve the elements one person at a time; one tiny cup of slightly sweet juice, one torn piece of bread, one blessing spoken before they head back to their seat.
TC and I would stand at a station with a line formed in from of us, and take turns saying, “This is Christ’s body broken for you, This is Christ’s blood shed for you”. If they had their name tag, we’d say their name, “Tamisha this is Christ’s body broken for you. Michelle’s Christ’s blood shed….for you.”
What surprised me most the first few times we served, were the responses. They varied from solemn head nods to quiet “amens” and teary “thank you”. I was amazed at transparency of that moment- every person responded to the love of Christ their own unique way. Every service I pondered those words and their profound meaning for us, “This is christ’s body, this is christ’s covenant”. Every service, left me in awe of the diversity in the Body of Christ.
One Sunday, my heart cracked open and Communion became more precious, more real, more vital to my spiritual growth- the Sunday grace and love and my pride clashed together.
I remember serving a woman who name was unique like mine. I saw her get in line and as she inched her way to me, I practiced her name in my heard after serving the person in front of me, finally she made it to our station and I said the words of blessing over her and I completely botched her name, just terribly, as a odd-named woman, I should be ashamed of myself. I was so embarrassed and shaken and not even sure I qualified anymore to serve the Communion elements,- how was I supposed to be the voice of Christ’s blessing if I couldn’t even say someone’s name right. I was sure I ruined the moment, but this is the beauty of grace: even shaky voices can proclaim the love of Christ, because she laughed it off and gave me a warm smile. By her acceptance of my brokenness, that moment was made whole.
I continued with her blessing, “My sister” I started, because I wasn’t about to jack up her name again, “this is Christ’s Body broken for you, Christ’s blood shed…for you”, she took her elements, bowed her head, said, “amen”. Before she walked away, she looked me in the eye, and whispered, “thank you”.
That moment at the communion table taught me something about the communion table- it is built on the love of Christ who shared in our suffering so that he could cover us in his wholeness. It’s this love that we respond to when we take communion together as one family. This table is large enough for every one of us. There’s space for you and for me, there’s room for my quirkiness and space your solemnity. Even our messy, big, sometimes embarrassing emotions can’t rob this table of its nourishment. Jesus’ is never scared away by our truest selves. And maybe most importantly for me a recovering perfectionist, this table is sustained by the grace of God who while we were still sinners died for us.
At the table we accept this grace, grace for ourselves when we mess up- especially for the times we think we should have gotten it right, when we can’t believe we messed up…yet again and grace for each other in the aftermath of offense. Because when we receive the blessing of Christ’s body broken for us in our brokenness, his is covenant of love that is impervious to our sin we are forever changed. SO this is what I’m inviting you to today, take and eat my brothers and sisters. If you want to know this love, if you want to accept this grace, if you want to follow Jesus, if you want a place where you are accepted just as you are, if you want to be reminded of your inherent dignity as a child of God, this table is for you. Come.
Finding my Wholeness, my Shalom at the Table,