Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Tale of Two Communions

This month was a rarity in my life since moving to Wisconsin...I had communion twice this month. These two communion ceremonies could not have been farther apart from each other if they tried. One left me empty... the other brought me closer to the Lord.

The first communion came as a total surprise. The pastor had preached for about 5 minutes when suddenly there we were facing the "middle" of his sermon. Whoa - I was not ready. I had not prepared my heart. I thought, "That's OK...I will use the time while the bread and the juice are being passed around to ask the Holy Spirit to search my heart." You see, I was raised in a home where communion was taken very seriously. I will never forget an incident when I was a teenager at church.

First, I must explain that my parents are in the choir; always have been, always will be. One of the added bonuses of Mom and Dad sitting in a lofty position facing the congregation is that they could watch their children....CONSTANTLY. They knew if I had been passing notes, or if I fell asleep, or if I was whispering and giggling with a friend. And most rides home, if I had misbehaved, I was asked a question about the sermon. Basically, I would have to admit that I wasn't paying attention and then they knew that I knew that they knew that I was not paying attention. Well, one of the times when I was being particularly irreverent happened to come during a communion. My dad did not let me off easy that time. He challenged me to read I Corinthians 11: 27 - 29: "Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgement on himself."

I have never forgotten those words. From that moment of teenage epiphany, I have set my heart and my mind on going through an intense examination of myself before I eat the bread. There have been times I have passed on the bread because I was in the middle of confessing sin and I knew I wasn't ready. What is the point of examining myself? The point is to acknowledge to myself and to God how desperately I need a savior! To say to myself and to God that I need the sacrifice that was made and to come clean before my Lord.

So, this Sunday there was no examination. Why? Because as soon as the plate of bread (or more like tiny crumbs of hard, tasteless crackers) began to make it's way through the isles, music from the worship team blared through the sound system. And this was not a quiet hymn, it was pretty loud and all the congregation was asked to join in. Join in? But those words on the screen had nothing to do with what I needed to do at that moment! I needed to be quiet....silent....and reflect on the dark places (and even the not so dark places in my heart) that needed confessing. Confess? Not even possible. I stuck my fingers in my ears and tried in vain to concentrate, make my mind went numb, then it kept going back to the words being sung by 3000 people. I took the bread anyway. I ate the bread anyway. And then I felt sick. This was wrong.

OK, try again. This time the cup. Pastor prays, the plates of cups start moving and then boom, bam, whap! This time a raucous song with electric guitar, bass and drums! What? I can't do this! I have not confessed anything and all I am doing is getting more and more confused about what this moment is about! Is this a worship concert, complete with lead solo before the audience (and at this point I do feel like part of an audience at a concert) is asked to Please Join.

I don't take the cup. I leave. I feel empty.

Tale two. This time in a small country church. I had been invited to a Seder Supper. Candles on the table, four small cups of grape juice and baskets of matzo bread on each table. There are probably 100 people there, in a gym, of all places. We were led through a traditional Jewish Seder supper which reenacts the Passover meal that Jesus would have been partaking in for his "last supper".
We ate bitter herbs dipped in salt water, we ate horseradish to induce tears, we had a delicious mix of apples and raisins that symbolized the mortar used by the Israel slaves to make bricks. And then we took the bread and remembered the broken body. An older gentlemen led us in prayer. The room was silent. He prayed unscripted, from the heart, an obvious man of God. Remember Jesus. I ate the bread. Then another older gentlemen rose to lead us prayer. He prayed and I shed a tear. I searched my heart in the silence and lots of junk came out and I laid it before God and simply said, "Forgive me." I drank the juice.

We rose and sang a simple praise song. With only a piano. I left filled.


Rbarrow said...

Small country churches....that is "home" to me. It sounds like this may be a good change for you?
I LOVE the sader idea dad is the head of Jewish Studies at Philadelphia Biblical University and he just did one of those also. I have not been to one yet, but would love to go sometime.
I am glad you found a place of quiet where you could get that "connection" right again!

Brooke said...

We did a Seder Service in our home when I was growing up......I will never forget it. Very impacting, and insightful. You should do one with your kids, if they didn't already partake in the one you did!