Though unable to recall my tenth or one hundredth time of serving communion, I recall the first.
Picture an immense cathedral. There was a gathering of sojourners, eagerly listening to the quiet words of preparation for the “living bread” of the Lord’s Supper. Imagine the expectation, the longing. Some awaiting the cup and bread know each other; some, until recently, were strangers. The bread was simple. The cup, filled to the brim, enough for everyone.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. [John 6:35, 41-51]
But don’t imagine fresh bread. And please, don’t figuratively sample my memory and start tasting the sweetness of grape juice or the spirited sip of wine. Before my first official communion as a United Methodist minister, which occurred mere days after ordination, I had to ask a critical question:
Anybody got any bread? Crackers? Chips? Anything?
Shortly after ordination I headed for the place where I would be a student intern pastor for a year. The youth group there immediately roped me into becoming the token adult leader on their annual backpack to the High Sierra. Into what naturalist and writer John Muir called the “Range of Light,” into the granite cathedral of wind-scoured peaks, alpine meadows, blazing blue skies, and sudden afternoon thunderstorms. Continue reading →
In a church I served, several of us arrived early, positioning a couple of bread-making machines throughout the sanctuary. With the batter already inside, they were switched on. We then hurried to other chores to prepare for that Sunday’s communion service.
When worship began, the fragrance of baking bread filled the sanctuary.
I’m guessing there were random stomachs grumbling in the pews. We wanted worshippers eager for communion. We wanted them, young and old, visitors and veteran members, to anticipate the meal. Usually, communion includes a meager portion of a simple drink and a nibble of bread. And yet, the various ways Christians have celebrated communion are reminders of larger-than-life gifts. We gulp forgiveness. We are nourished with renewed life. We recall and claim Jesus’ ministry to all.
However, and whenever, the holy meal is celebrated it is a sensual moment. Taste, smell, touch, sound, and sight are all engaged. Continue reading →
The farmers’ hands were scrubbed clean and yet still dirty.
The creases on their palms were like dark rivers flowing through callouses and scars. Black streaks of grit and grime were permanently etched around nails.
Fingers were missing. A pinkie gone, leaving three digits alongside the thumb. Or the upper part of a ring finger ended at the knuckle. I recall a few pointing, perhaps giving directions to a neighbor’s place, but there was no index finger to aim.
Is farming the most dangerous job in America? Oh sure, others could protest that distinction. Soldiers face bullets and bombs. Who wants to be a cop or firefighter rushing into a building ablaze with angry citizens or fires or both? Loggers with chainsaws always make the danger list. Don’t forget the construction workers atop half-built skyscrapers, a stumble from experiencing gravity in a bad, bad way. Continue reading →