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Dirty? Communion

While in Pennsylvania on vacation with my husband’s side of the family, I had a chance to worship at a church that wasn’t “mine”, and was of a completely different denomination.

In the Presbyterian Church, communion always follows the sermon, as a response to the Word of God proclaimed. There is a set way of doing things; a set ritual that goes with the holy act. Words said may vary slightly, but not much else does. And whatever happens, it’s done decently and in order.

But in the church where I was visiting, communion was BEFORE the sermon (which thoroughly shocked my decently and in order self). I got the feeling that there wasn’t a ritual per se…but rather that the moment was flexible.

The bread and wafers were passed out simultaneously, and then the pastor talked…for a while. We were standing up, and had the elements in our hands– and still there was talking and singing. (I think we did at least a 5 min praise chorus between when the elements were distributed and when we partook.) At first, I was just daintily waiting– the wafer was sitting lightly on my hand, and the juice held lightly between two fingers. By the time I was shifting my weight from foot to foot, my hands were wrapped around the elements.

I remember thinking, “Gross. Hurry up, before my communion elements are all sticky, and covered with whatever my hands have been into this morning. Communion ought to be pure, not sticky!” But as I thought about it, there was something at least a little bit profound about that. We never take communion with completely “clean hands”– our souls are in some ways, always sticky or smelly. I guess I was reminded that I’m not as clean as I think I might be. But it’s not about the fact that our lives might get all over the communion, it’s about the fact that communion might get all over our lives. And that’s kinda cool– because it’s impossible not to get our lives all over the communion. Every time we come to the table, we come with all sorts of baggage, but we come just as we are. Christ doesn’t meet us and say, “Go wash up”– no, he says, “Come, and be in fellowship with me…and be made clean.”

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