Years ago, our church stopped passing the communion tray.
There were practical reasons for this, like the gross realization there’s no faster way to spread germs and make half your congregation sick than to pass a small, metal serving tray around and let a few thousand people touch it.
I’m sure ending this tradition also saved a lot of time in the service, time that could be used differently.
How it works now is we have tables set up around the sanctuary and during communion time, you and your family get up and head to the table. There’s no church member standing at the end of the pew waiting for the communion tray to make its way down. There’s no gently bumping your neighbor who has his head bowed in reverence and you have to awkwardly interrupt them because we’ve got to get things moving. Now you just get up, head to the communion table, take your bread and juice, and then head back to your seat or somewhere off to the side if you want to take communion with a group of people.
I don’t remember the moment this changed happened, I’m sure it sent many people to their knees praying for our heathen church. I’m sure it even made a few people leave. People do not like change in church so please keep the carpet the same, the volume of worship down, and for the love, do not wear jeans on stage. Jesus hates those things and it’s in the Bible somewhere, they’re just sure of it.
But for most of us, it was just a mechanics change and not worth getting our festive fall sweaters in a tizzy over. Actually, I think the switch made the communion experience better and I’m not just talking about the logistics of getting that little shot of grape juice.
For me, this change has also brought about a shift in experiencing God.
I like to hang back when it’s communion time. A lot of people immediately get up and make their way to the nearest table. But for me, I wait. One because if I wait, I don’t have to stand in line as long, and two because I like to do things on my own time and being told to do something makes me react slower than if I was doing it from my own idea. This is because I am an immature, defiant brat.
But while I’m hanging back, readying myself for communion and talking to God about how I can be less of a brat, I get to watch tons of people literally line up at the body of Christ waiting for a piece of him. I get to see a small glimpse of what the crowds might have looked like thousands of years ago as they gathered around Jesus wanting to hear his stories, touch his robe, and just be in his presence. Kids and parents, elderly and sick, they’re all lining up at the communion table at my church each weekend to remember Jesus on the cross and I get a small glimpse of what the disciples saw.
Thousands of years ago, people tore off roofs to get people to Jesus. They followed him from town to town, hanging on his every word. They trailed him as he walked the streets, and they met him on the side of a mountain to hear him teach. People knew just a brush of his robe could heal them and they brought him their sick, their dying, and their already-dead.
I imagine, because these people were flawed, broken, and human, that the crowds were sometimes rowdy. That occasionally they were pushy and they shoved and maybe they were sneaky about getting to Jesus. Their intentions were good, but their actions were probably not always the best. I bet they were loud and demanding and believed with their whole hearts Jesus was the Son of Man, but showed it in odd, slightly off-putting ways.
Kind of like how we behave today.
Today when we take communion at church, we’ve got the “act” down–we line up quietly, wait our turn, allow the random old lady to get in front of us, squirt the hand sanitizer if we’re feeling germy. We know the routine.
But what if this was actually Jesus–wouldn’t we be a little bit more rowdy in our lines? Wouldn’t you maybe cut someone who was moving slow? Wouldn’t you sneak in the back door or take off a few sections of roof to slide in next to Jesus?
I would. Screw you guys, I need to get to Jesus.
In love, of course. Jesus love.
But really, think about it, every time we get to come to the communion table, we’re getting Jesus. Yes, we get Jesus all the time if we’re baptized, we get the Holy Spirit in us and we can and should experience that every single day. But the communion table (the Cross) is our closest real-life moment where we get Jesus, we get his body, his sacrifice, and his forgiveness.
It makes me want to get a little pushy in line. I need it so much I probably need to cut a few of you.
Or all of you, actually.
I need to be the one who jumps up out of my seat and rushes to be first in line. Not because I’m more important, but because I’m so low and missing the point and in need of Jesus I can’t even see straight.
You’re probably in the same boat as me and need him just as desperately because we’re human and messy and loud and broken and shouldn’t we be scrambling to the communion table each week? Shouldn’t we be crawling bloody and bruised and weepy to our Jesus who offers us grace and mercy and healing?
Because you know even though all those people at my church have their Sunday best on, inside that’s what they look like. Because that’s what my insides look like. I don’t say that to out anyone, I just say it because it’s true and real and the Bible tells us we’re all in this mess together and that’s why Jesus came. Plain and simple.
So this Sunday, when you get to the communion plate whether it’s served on a germy tray touched by three people who pick their nose and countless people who really don’t wash after they use the bathroom or you head to the table at the side of the room to pick up the bread and juice, get pushy, get excited, get rowdy. Not literally because if you hurt someone, I’ll delete this post and deny ever saying anything, but get pushy and excited. What we get to experience at the foot of the Cross is something that people walked days and weeks to get to. What we get to experience at the foot of the Cross is something that was a promise for so many people they never got to experience in their lifetime.
It’s communion with our Father, guys. Get excited.