I was raised in the United Methodist Church. One of my most formative theological foundations is rooted in the gift of the open Communion Table. I was taught from a very early age that we are all welcome at The Table. When my friends came to church, they were welcome. When I brought my Cabbage Patch Doll to church, she was welcome. When my grandparents visited (even when they chose not to partake) they were welcome. This was contrasted by my experience of attending a Catholic high school, where the invitation to be fed was limited to those in their particular understanding of the elements.
As one who has spent more hours than necessary both lamenting these choices of Eucharistic Theology and defining my own rhythm of belief, please know that I have the historical context for denominational differences. I can appreciate the systems of belief from a church history perspective. At the same time, there is no other Sacrament or tradition that brings me the peace and joy that I find in my understanding of Communion.
I have written about this before. I can hardly tell a story of faith without connecting the power of The Table to my journey. But I felt compelled to write a word about it again today. There are multiple situations in my life that are beyond my fixer-upper ability. For those that speak in these languages, I am an ISTJ, an Enneagram 8 and a Strength Finder #1 – Command. Let me define = I know how to do it excellently, productively, accurately and fully. And by it, I do mean everything. So on days when I find myself unable to do and fix and complete all of the things with competency and a secured positive outcome, I am frustrated and angry (because that is always my default for fear). It is in these times, that I am instantly drawn back to The Table.
Let me say a few things about this religious ritual for those that are already annoyed that I am talking bread and wine, again. For some of us, this meal has become entangled in religious ritual. Perhaps you find yourself immediately dissecting the experience: It’s too casual, you prefer to kneel. What about the “non-pastor-like” people handling the breaking of the bread. What’s up with that? You don’t like drive by communion – what happened to the good old days of the altar? And what about these kids…they just get communion without going to a special class? How does that work?
When we share Holy Communion we are doing what Christians have done throughout time: celebrating a relationship with Jesus by taking seriously his own words on the night before he died—“Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you. Drink from this, all of you; this is my blood poured out for you.” We come to the table and take the bread and wine to remind ourselves that all of life is holy.
That’s why The Eucharist moves me like it does – time and time again, year after year – it never stops speaking to me of the Christ who is reconciling all things, especially the broken, divided world in which we live. In light of this season in my life, it is the gift of Communion that reminds me that just as the meal is about connection with God, it is also the place were we join with our sisters and brothers and this faith that we share gets real.
On a given Sunday I will likely spot one or two people who have wronged or hurt me. There are often people whose politics, theology, or personalities drive me crazy. But The Table transforms even our enemies into companions. The Table reminds us that as brothers and sisters adopted into God’s family, we’re in this together. Everyone eats, regardless of economic, social, or racial background. The Table gives us a chance to eat and drink together despite our differences, perceived and real. We are family. The Table teaches us that, ultimately, faith isn’t about being right or good or even in agreement. The Table is about feeding and being fed.
The Table is a place where people and their differences come together without losing their individual identities. It’s called Holy Communion, and rightly so, because something very holy happens in this space. Something that I cannot experience anywhere else in this life. This is the heart of where I find myself today. Because I can’t drag all of the key players in the hard issues of life to my church and march them up the aisle for the moment of magical connection. That’s not the way this world works.
But for those of us that meet Jesus there, we are just as quickly sent back out to be the living Eucharist for the world. Because whenever you are walking through life with someone else, you are breaking open your body and pouring out your blood. And that, my friends, is Jesus living through us. I celebrate this meal because I am committed to partnering with God in the rescue of the world. I choose to love so that others might be loved and healed in the name of Jesus.
But let me speak from my hard-earned experience, when you partner with God in loving the world, you can become empty. It hurts when your body is broken and your blood is poured out. It takes something out of you to serve and give so that others might be healed. And that is why I run back to The Table – to mend my broken body, to bind my wounded soul and to allow Jesus to pour healing blood back in.
I cannot heal the world by trying hard. Even in all my strengths and boldness, I cannot do it. I can give and pour and create and partner and then I am forced to stop and remember that I cannot heal the world. I am a partner with Jesus in the work of restoration. I am not Jesus. And that single fact alone is the reason that I have to run to The Table.