Thursday, July 21, 2011

Communion: I Serve You in the Love of Christ

I felt a tap on my shoulder, startling me from my reverie. It was a spring Sunday morning. Matt was upstairs helping with the kids. I was sitting alone in my pew. The service was winding down, and it was time for communion. As I was sitting in that pew, with my head bowed, I probably looked the part of a pensive, meditative worshipper. But I was not praying. I was staring down at the spiral bound notebook in my lap. The tap on my shoulder was so startling because I was afraid I was going to get caught, and I immediately sought to conceal the small book in my lap. I had not been jotting down sermon notes or composing a pre-communion prayer. Instead, I had been scribbling out my to-do list, a list that spanned laundry and homeschool prep and long-overdue emails and housecleaning. As I stared down at my completed list, I felt overwhelmed and a wee bit panicky that I was sitting quietly in church rather than ticking something off of that list.

The tap on my shoulder had distracted me out of a meditation more tellurian than sacred.

When I glanced up, my guilty eyes looked into those of Geo, one of our pastors. She was not tapping me on the shoulder to reprimand me, however. Instead, she was asking me to help with communion. I had never helped with communion before, but of course I nodded my head yes, stuffed the notebook into my purse, and followed her up the aisle.

We had been attending our church for two years, and I walk up to take communion nearly every Sunday. But as I was a bit nervously standing there next to Geo, I could not remember for the life of me what I was supposed to say as each worshipper dipped the bread into the cup.

I leaned over and whispered, “Um, am I supposed to say something?” She looked at me (and I imagined that her look was incredulous, but I am pretty sure that I was actually imagining the look), and she whispered back, “I serve you in the love of Christ.”

Got it. I can do that, I thought.

The music began, and I saw and heard, from this front-row vantage point, the creak of pews, the whispered “excuse me’s,” and the silently exchanged smiles of my community as they swept up the aisles to receive communion and then as they walked back to their seats, all of them quietly engaged in a holy ritual that I have been a part of for years but that I had never had the opportunity to observe in this way.

“I serve you in the love of Christ,” I said quietly to each worshipper as they plunged their bread into the cup.

“I serve you in the love of Christ,” I said as I looked into the eyes of my dear friends.

“I serve you in the love of Christ,” I said to people with whom I had never exchanged more than a friendly nod or a shy “hello” at the coffee table.

“I serve you in the love of Christ,” I whispered as I squatted lower to meet the outstretched hand of a child.

“I serve you in the love of Christ.”

I walked back to my pew, and my heart was full of worship and wonder.

The ritual was so simple.

And the words, while rooted in a sacred tradition, were not magic.

But there was something mystical about it. Something holy. Something that softened my duty-driven heart and shifted its perspective.

I still got out my to-do list when I got home. But something had changed within me. I felt a little silly, but it seemed that if serving my church family in a rite as simple as communion could feel holy, then what about the simple rites I perform for my own family?

As I wash and fold laundry…"I serve you in the love of Christ."

As I pick up discarded toys and stray shoes and abandoned artwork…"I serve you in the love of Christ."

As I chop vegetables…"I serve you in the love of Christ."

As I wrap my son in a hug…"I serve you in the love of Christ."

As I stop what I am doing to look my daughter in the eye and listen to her story…"I serve you in the love of Christ."

As I abandon my to-do list to sit on the porch with my husband and exchange our souls…"I serve you in the love of Christ."

And the next week communion was that much sweeter and more meaningful to me as I walked forward, took the bread, dipped it into the cup, and heard the host softly say to me, “I serve you in the love of Christ.”