For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25)
This morning I’m going to try to describe something I almost wish came with a photograph, or a video. But in the moment, when I started to reach for my iPhone, I resisted the temptation, and I simply experienced the beauty of community in the breaking of bread.
It was Sunday morning, and we were celebrating Communion, The Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist. Yesterday was just our second Sunday with Wake Forest Presbyterian Church, and it doesn’t seem nearly so long as a month since Rebekah and I both succumbed to tears, knowing we were sharing our last communion with our faith community in Brandon.
The tears in Brandon had caught us a little by surprise, because it was still another week before we would be saying goodbye. But sharing the bread and the wine is so intimate, such an intense experience of community, that both Rebekah and I found ourselves caught out, undone, in the spirit of that moment.
Then again, Sunday morning, I found myself caught out again, exposed as the emotional noodle I am, caught between residual grief and this new wellspring of hope, and promise, and inspiration.
GRACE UPON GRACE: I’ll try to explain: The bread and the wine were served by intinction, from four stations at the front of the sanctuary, by seven elders plus Rebekah. I was seated on the third row in my section, so I was in line fairly early, and I found myself being served by Rebekah (along with Rick, elder for personnel).
I was surprisingly moved when Rebekah said, “Derek, the blood of Christ, shed for you…” It was so personal, and I struggled to hold myself together as I made my way back to my seat. But it was then, safely seated (I thought) in a posture of prayer and meditation, that I had an even more profound spiritual experience.
There in front of me, and all around me, in constant motion and with great hymns of the faith played on the piano in the background, I witnessed family after family come forward to receive grace.
- Teenagers with their parents or with friends;
- Young children holding the hands of their parents;
- Young adults;
- Single adults;
- Couples of all ages;
- Extended families of three generations;
- Groups of worshippers coming to the table – all hungry for grace.
I heard broken fragments of phrases floating across the room from the four stations, simultaneously: “This is the body of Christ.” “Christ’s blood, shed for you.” “Thank you.” “Thank you….”
And names, one after the other: “Christ for you, Derek; Christ for you, Robert; Christ for you, Shelly; Christ for you, John; Christ for you, Trisha; Christ for you, Paul; Christ for you, Kim.” “God bless you; God loves you; God loves you; God loves you….”
So many people – layers of people, layers of grace – moving in front of my vision and around me. Peace; mercy; belief; love in three dimensions; no, four, because the spiritual dimension is so apparent, so real, so vital, so deep, so extravagant.
HEALING: I felt healing in that room yesterday morning. I felt healing for my own grief at leaving Brandon; healing for so many relationships; healing for wounded souls throughout the sanctuary; healing for a church moving forward in belief; healing because we all need to rest more completely in Jesus.
Because the imparting and the apprehension of the kind of grace received during communion is always about healing. It’s the transaction of grace that is taking place; grace in the context of community; and all I did was to – maybe for the first time – witness it with absolute clarity.
And I watched; not as a spectator but as a participant, a blessed child of grace, and a grateful recipient of the generous provisions of the Gospel of Love.
In grace, and mercy, and love – DEREK