Thursday, March 14, 2013

Feast of Love.

I forgot to warn her.

A friend stayed the night at my house one weekend, and she attended church with my family at the Lutheran church in which I was raised. We went through the Communion line, her at my heels. After receiving, I headed back to my seat when I felt a sharp poke in my back.

“You didn’t tell me!” she hissed.

“Tell you what?!”

“WINE! It was wine and it was gross and I almost spit it out by accident. It burned my throat!” My very Baptist friend had her first sip of the legit fruit of the vine and to say the least, it caught her off-guard.

We couldn’t keep from giggling through the remainder of the liturgy.

Our time at the Table is sacred, no doubt.

But a pastor pointed out to me a couple of years ago that perhaps we shouldn’t look so glum and down-in-the-dumps as we approach Communion. It’s not only a memorial service, he said, but a celebration of life – new life given through the death and resurrection of Jesus. He compared our experiences during the Lord’s Supper to photos of his loved ones on his desk – pictures that remind him of joyous days and celebrations, moments of love and grace and even perhaps redemption, forever captured. We can come to Communion with a smile, remembering all the ways Jesus has offered us liberty and the many ways we enjoy it.

This feast of love, this celebration, this remembrance, this beautiful mystery – is held in as many ways as the Body of Christ is unique. I’ve shared the fellowship of Christ using crackers and water and I’ve felt His presence with good friends around barbecue. I told you before I felt it at Pizza Hut (of all places, showing me that God can work anywhere). Can that be Communion?

My favorite story about this subject is the one my friend Matt tells, of watching two men with special needs sharing God’s Table at a summer camp. They used doughnuts and juice and then one man scraped the icing out of the fingernails of the other man.

May I suggest that Christ was found more in those doughnuts and that glass of juice than in what many would consider a “proper” sharing of the Lord’s Supper?

I think that doughnuts and juice thing is what Jesus had in mind when He said, “Remember Me” - servanthood was definitely His style, and as we remember Him, we remember the way He loved people and put them before tradition. 

Jesus – the Great Joy Giver. One-third of the Godhead who makes dry bones…well, dance.

Would he not want us to laugh and love our way to His Holy table? Is that not the way he lived? Enjoying the presence of real sinners? Laughing with them? Swapping stories?

The elements of Communion are found almost everywhere – a little wheat, a little fruit of the vine. The everyday made sacred - the mundane set apart as holy. Was this a coincidence, or was it meant to remind us during EVERY meal we share in which Jesus is glorified and people are sharing a feast of love and grace with one another?

Two little girls at our church were sharing Communion a few years ago – it was one of the first times after they had both made professions of faith. The two girls were best friends and happened to be sitting next to each other, so in the spirit of love, friendship, joy, and some sort of sisterhood of the traveling Communion, they clinked their itsy-bitsy glasses together before drinking the juice.

Of course, their parents explained to them all the reasons it wasn’t a proper thing to do, as I would do with my own children.

We still laugh about that on the front row every first-Sunday-of-the-month. But a little part of me wonders, did they understand more about the spirit of the Feast of Love than I do?

God never wanted the memorial of His son to become the memorial of all my sins instead, where I feel so depressed that all I can remember are my shortcomings, and I forget His more than sufficient grace. That’s why He asks us to deal with that stuff and examine ourselves BEFORE we approach the table.

The two little girls – maybe they were on to something. I’m not saying we should toast one another when the tiny cups come out. But maybe we could enter into the joy Jesus finds in redeeming us, in raising us to new life, and in waiting on us to share it anew with Him in His Kingdom.

I reckon that would be a meaningful and joyful feast of love.