This past Sunday I had the privilege of sharing in a most sacred mystery by helping serve Communion at our church. When my best friend asked me if I’d be interested, I didn’t know how to respond. Even though I’ve seen it done hundreds–maybe thousands–of times by other ordinary men and women, and even though I grew up in a Protestant church, I suddenly felt like only a priest should be handling the elements. I felt inadequate. Unholy. Unqualified. What did I know about administering Communion? Shouldn’t somebody do a background check or at least spy on me for awhile to make sure I don’t yell at my kids or cheat on my taxes?
As a nod to my priestly concerns, I wore a black button down shirt and arrived to church early. I checked the planning sheet for my station and serving partner, trying to still my mind and quiet my heart before the service began. The large, imposing beams of our wooden cross, so simple a killing machine, yet so beautiful, stood under the lights at the center of the stage. Two years ago, as partakers in another sacred mystery, I had the joy of nailing my declaration of faith to this same cross before I was baptized next to this same stage. The same best friend went down into the water with me: both of us washed new and clean. Old believers living a new kind of faith. Young women both, joining the company of ages-old saints striving to live out the way of Jesus. Trying to grasp the love that was stretched out for us on those beams.
When it was time for us to go up to the front of church to serve, I started to feel myself pull inward. My fellow Jesus-walkers on their feet, praying communally, and me, eyes glued to the simple wooden bowl of wafers in my hands. Are you OK? my partner asked me. Yes. No. I don’t know. I wanted to say all these things, but managed a weak assurance instead. It’s hard to describe the enormity of what I was feeling. Overwhelmed by the meaning of it all. Overwhelmed by love. Overwhelmed by what I was saying to each pair of eyes that met mine: This is the Body of Christ, broken for you.
The line stretched beyond my line of vision. One by one they came: coifed and fancy. This is the Body of Christ, broken for you. Tatooed and dred-locked: This is the Body of Christ, broken for you. Young and downcast, old and frail, strong, weak, sick, unsure, teary-eyed, rejoicing. I looked them each in the face and the force of history and the weight of these words hit me. THIS is the Body of Christ, broken for you. This is the Body of Christ, broken for YOU. The sacrifice came alive. Each one of these people, fully excepted, fully loved, fully died-for, fully redeemed. Before time began. Before even given the choice to accept or reject Him, He embraced them—each of us. I swallowed hard and felt my $6 mascara slip down and away from my lashes. Did they feel it? Did they feel His love? Do they know Him? Do they understand? I breathed in, breathed out.
Our worship leader was singing in the background and I was singing in my heart. Standing on that side of the gift—on the giving side—was an experience filled with such power I think I might have actually been glowing with some kind of supernatural spirit-love. I am no priest and as my family will readily tell you, I am far from perfect. But how wonderful to think that I don’t have to perfect to approach the throne of our God. How wonderful to think that we can come to Him as we are: black shirt and tears in our eyes and stained and damaged, and he accepts us completely.
Matt, my serving partner took the elements and turned to me: This is the Body of Christ, broken for you. This is the Blood of Christ, shed for you. My eyes closed. My eyes were opened.
Joining in such a God-drenched moment in time is something that can only be described, I’m convinced, by words not yet contained in our language.