In all the churches I have ever attended, there has been a communion table.
Some tables are plain, resembling more the size and stature of a card table. Some tables are ornate with great and intricate pillars for legs, scratch-free or glass-topped surfaces, little grapes carved into deep relief beside words from God’s very mouth. An acre of polished hardwood that holds the very body and blood of Christ. (Well, maybe not all that holy-like).
It’s communion. A Christian Sacrament.
When I right-click the word ‘Communion’ and then look it up in the dictionary, that’s what it tells me.
And then, I keep scrolling through the definition. I find lovely words.
The scriptures (Matthew, Mark and Luke) tell me that Jesus sat down with his followers, said the bread before them represented his body and the wine represented his blood. His body would be broken for them. His blood would be shed for them. When I look at that scene with a cynical eye, I see cannibalism. Yet no one at the table freaks out. I mean, the scriptures don’t say that any of the disciples swallowed real hard after they finished chewing. Not one of them turned aside and retched a little in the corner of the upper room.
Maybe Jesus kinda said all this under his breath and the disciples were kinda rowdy and they didn’t hear. (That was real wine on the table, after all …) Maybe they were riding high on the events of the triumphal entry. I mean, they were walking with the hero of the story. They were walking with the one who was prophesied to come and save them. Who wouldn’t be elated?
Maybe they weren’t really paying attention.
That happens. Even today. A bunch of people, all getting together, having fun, breaking some bread, knocking back some wine. Yes, we’ve heard about the brevity of life. Yes, we know that we will climb into our cars and go our separate ways when the party is over. Yes, we know driving is the most dangerous thing. We don’t think that these happy moments could be last moments.
We don’t necessarily place these moments in our heart pockets and feel the weight of Intimacy, Connection, Common Faith, Fellowship. Not right then, at least.
Sometimes, it takes the absence of friends for us to realize the sacredness of presence with friends.
On Sunday, Pastor went so far as to tell us that communion even means Identity.
Right at that moment, I wanted the sermon to stop. I wanted to have time to think about what that really means. I wanted to pause and ask for forgiveness for the times when I neglected to identify myself with Jesus, when I neglected to identify Jesus to others. I wanted to figure out if I really identified with Him, if someone could look at me, see my actions, read my words, and then say, ‘Yeah, she’s with HIM.’
More than just something casual. More than just a good time. More than a fleeting and vague memory.
I cannot remember something I am not a part of.
Many years ago, I had a cousin named Andrew. He was everything I wanted to be like. Gentle, good and smart. In our very child-like way, we said when we grew up we were going to get married. We shared such a devotion that we didn’t want to be apart from one another. It was silly and innocent and very, very sacred.
There was nothing wrong with Andrew’s spiritual heart. But there was something terribly wrong with his physical heart. When we played together as children, sometimes his lips would turn blue. The adults would flutter in and help us find something calm and warm and small-but-together to do. We had a glimpse, then, of how brief a time we had together.
Andrew died. We were still just children, really; on the cusp of childhood and adulthood. At his funeral, a clergy person in strange robes, with strange rituals that were different than mine, offered a small, round wafer and a simple, full cup.
I received the elements with tears and gratitude and a little bit of nervousness. Not everyone in my family moved toward the front of the huge sanctuary that day, and that was okay. I believed that my sweet Andrew would have done the same thing for me. I identified with my cousin and I identified with the Jesus who I believe will make it possible for us to play in Heaven again one day. Just like we played together on this earth, minus the blue lips.
There is but one heart condition in Heaven. It’s called Communion.
Now, when the bread passes my lips and the juice touches my tongue, I hear with my heart the whispers down long, white corridors I can only begin to imagine … “When you do this, remember me.”