Holy Communion

Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:17-35

Taking Lent seriously leads me to think about communion. I’ve participated in Lord’s Supper services since I was a child, but these were pushed quietly to the periphery and conducted more or less with an apologetic air about them. Church leaders that I admired (and still do) went to great lengths to stress the symbolic nature of the saltines and Welch’s; we did not call it holy communion or the Eucharist because such vocabulary smacked of Catholicism. None of that transubstantiation or consubstantiation business for us, thank you very much. For two years now I’ve approached the Lord’s table from a different persuasion, and have done so with greater frequency than I’ve been accustomed most of my life. At first I thought familiarity would breed contempt, but have since learned to love coming regularly to an open table that invites rather than excludes; one that does not flinch when beckoning communicants to encounter Christ and one another in the process.

It happens from time to time that, following our simple eucharistic celebration, someone says to me that it has been a very pleasing experience. When asked what part of the celebration moved them, the answer is often circumspect and comes out something like, “I love it when we come together like this; I belong, and what is happening is very real to me.” Such a subjective statement would have made me cringe in earlier days of pastoral ministry, but these days I understand that what touches people most deeply is the very raison d’être of corporate worship–the encounter that takes place between people and God at the very moment they come together. Call it intersection, or even incarnation; hungering hearts collide with one another and grasp the Cross to steady themselves. Crucifixion is a shared experience. As soon as we try to pin God down in an effort to keep him for ourselves–in other words, as soon as we claim God as our own possession–then life itself is threatened, especially the lives of the weak and wounded. God happens to us as we open our hearts to one another.

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