Holy Communion is one of the joys of my life – both as a presider and as a communicant. The comfort and strength I receive from the sacrament are immeasurable. The closeness I feel to Jesus when I receive him in the bread and wine is palpable. I didn’t think it was possible that my comprehension and appreciation for this great gift could get any deeper, but it has in the most unexpected way.
In December my oldest child became an assisting minister at my husband’s congregation (my congregation of membership too, but not the congregation where I serve). The assisting minister processes with the pastor, reads the scripture during worship, leads the congregation in many prayers, and assists with the distribution of Holy Communion as one of the chalice-bearers. I was armed with my camera, poised to take unobtrusive pictures when appropriate. I’m a proud mama!
I had decided that I would receive the chalice from my daughter to show her my support. I knelt at the altar, hands outstretched to hold the chalice, but when the time came I was quite unprepared for what happened. She came to me – this daughter who I carried, this child who I nursed, this girl who I held as she cried through the worst times of her life – and said, “The blood of Christ, shed for you.” And I almost broke down. The weight of that moment, profound in its words, but most of all in the young woman before me who spoke them, was almost unbearable. I was shaken, not in fear, but by hearing the gospel given to me by my daughter. Suddenly our roles were completely reversed. I was kneeling before her. I was receiving the Lord from her. I was the needy one, looking up, waiting to be nourished.
I would like to say it was awesome – but that word is too overused in our culture, and has come to mean something more akin to “great” or “fantastic!” So I’ll say the experience filled me with awe: awe for the life-journey of the young woman who fed me, and awe for our God who comes to us anew in the most unexpected times and places. It was a strong reminder to me of how God works through each one of us, using our strengths and our weaknesses. How the seemingly weakest/smallest/least significant among us can play a tremendous role. How the young can teach the old, the weak lift up the strong, the marginalized preach to the strong. We are a motley group, we Christians. Struggling with sin, kneeling equally before the altar as beggars, and receiving the body and blood of forgiveness.
Of course I knew all this before. It’s not like I didn’t know that we’re equal before God, or that I could learn and receive from my children. But once in a while, when our hearts and spirits are open, we can experience an old, well-worn thing, a beautiful gift, a wonderful treasure, with fresh perspective. Like finding a new detail in a favorite painting. And all we can do when we have this experience is let it flow over us – and thank God.