Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Communion Cup, Greensboro, NC
Once again we’ve entered into the season of Lent leading up to the celebration of the resurrection’s power over sin and death. And the Easter sacrament at the epicenter of this celebration is Holy Communion. Because the two primary sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion consist of the physical elements of water, bread and wine, they provide us with a very tangible experience of faith—if we’re in the right frame of mind during these times of worship. By invoking the presence of God, common water in baptism becomes a gracious water of life and a spiritual cleansing. By invoking His presence in communion, the spiritual substance of the body and blood of our Savior are manifested in the signs of divine grace by the bread and wine. Although we use these elements in daily life without giving them a second thought, when they are introduced into the sacraments at worship both our physical and spiritual senses are elevated.
It’s imperative that we enter into these sacraments with a sense of purpose and a right mind. John Wesley has written that to do otherwise is meaningless; “Before you use any means of grace, let it be deeply impressed on your soul: separate from God, it is a dry leaf, a shadow”. I have to confess that I have participated in communion on occasion and returned to my seat without any recollection of the meaning of the sacrament. In essence, I have to reprimand myself because I have just had a light snack and nothing more. The moment was squandered.
I’m reminded of a somber Lenten evening service where I had been asked to assist in serving the communion elements. I was given a basket of bread cubes sanctified as “the body of Christ, broken for you”. As the members and guests were filing up to our station, I was mindlessly presenting my basket of bread to those in worship. After making eye contact and doing this for just a few people, I turned back toward the next person and didn’t see anybody. Then I glanced down into the full gaze of a warmly smiling elderly woman who was looking up in full anticipation of sharing in the sacrament. But this person was gently holding out both cupped hands to receive the body, not take it. Embarrassed that I had not been handing this element to folks, I immediately placed a cube of bread into the woman’s hands and she knowingly passed by. I then made certain that everyone continued to receive the body of Christ.
The small woman with the warm smile must have been a guest that evening, as I never saw her again because I was looking to thank her for the subtle reminder. And we should always be gracious to strangers, as you never know when you might be entertaining angels.