I am incredibly grateful for the church I grew up in. I was loved, nutured, encouraged, corrected, and challenged there. We had traditions that were both local and denominational. The middle schoolers always did a living nativity scene during Christmas. There was always an Easter pageant. We had summer camps and winter retreats. Our Sunday services were often predictable but nobody seemed to mind. We received communion about 3-4 times a year. I remember consistently having it on New Year’s Eve, around Easter, and then a couple other times during the year for good measure.
I remember one particular New Year’s Eve when I was about 14, a friend wanted to come with me. He was not really interested in the service as much as the youth group’s all night party that would follow. I don’t fault him for that because I felt the same way. So when we arrived at the church we took a seat in the first row of the balcony. Worship began as I’d seen a hundred times before; some singing, then offering, then a prayer, then a message.
But when the pastor called the ushers forward at the end of the service my friend leaned forward. This time they were carrying stacks of shiny silver trays. He shifted in his seat and put his forearm on the rail. His chin nearly resting on it as well. He was transfixed as they began passing the trays down the rows.
In a very reverant inquisitive whisper he said, “What is this? I’ve never seen this before.”
The door had openned for me to share the gospel. To simply explain this ritual…this giant sacred object lesson…to one of my best friends.
But I froze up. I don’t know if it was because I was afraid I’d get something wrong or that he would continue to ask questions that I didn’t know how to answer or if I just plain chickened out. But my response was awful.
“Oh…(long pause)…It’s just something we do every once in a while.”
I can’t tell you how long that huge failure weighed upon me or how many times I asked God to put people in my friend’s life who wouldn’t drop the ball…and prayed that He would somehow trust me enough to give me other opportunities in the future.
He did. He has. He will continue to.
But I still wish I could have made the most of that moment in the balcony on the corner of Irish and Mt Morris Rds.
Though you may have never blown it as badly as I did, I bet you’ve experienced moments around the Lord’s Table when you responded, “Oh…It’s just something we do every once in a while.” You put your heart on auto pilot and missed an opportunity…to let go of something or pick something up, to say I’m sorry or to say thank you, or to taste and see how good God is.
As we head into Holy Week and prepare for Easter I will explore the roots and rich significance of communion for those of us who follow Jesus. It is far more than “just something we do every once in a while.”