Wednesday, June 26, 2013

When Communion Made Me Cry

Normally I want to hug old men.
They melt my heart.
But the crotchety elderly man 
pushing a walker
during communion 
only helped me understand why
people up and leave the church
and abandon Jesus in the process.

The stage had been set for majesty.
Drums had beat an African styling 
of a beloved church hymn.
A young Turk woman led worship.
An pastor from down under transparently, courageously shared 
about the need for true togetherness in the body of Christ.
The stage had been set...

Set for the next moments of communion to be glory-filled.
Set for the coming experience of bread and wine 
among spirit siblings to be wonderful.
But it was not to be for me.

The invitation was made
to come to the table.
People began to come out of the rows and fill the aisle.
I stood with my daughter
shoulder to shoulder
with others

Waiting for our turn at the table.
To dip the bread in the juice.
To proclaim through the elements 
we are part of a new covenant.

And it was taking a while.
People were getting antsy.
But I was trying to drink in the moment.
After all, this present grace with my faith family
wouldn't happen exactly like this again.
The stage would not be set with these particulars again.

And then that old man looked around and focused on me
and said with pointing finger, 
"We go row by row. You wait."

And I was crushed.
Fighting, in spirit, to return 
to the place of wonder 
I had just inhabited.
Straining hard toward the still coming gift of communion.
And yet, it had been interrupted.

Once I had finally returned to my seat,
after the grape soaked bread lingered on my tongue
after my 8-year old heard this was the body and blood given for her
I gave into the tears.
I cried.
Not hard, as I didn't want to make a scene.
But I wanted to.

I cried because I felt scolded.
I cried because a beautiful moment seemed ruined.
I cried because this man's words seemed selfish
and lacking of any compassion or grace.

I cried 
because in a moment 
that should have served to join our separateness,
I saw how the church can splinter because of self-centeredness. 

And I cried as I asked
how many times has
the church been guilty of
pushing away sincere seekers 
with the same kind of selfishness?

Have there been ones 
who've been 
trying to get to Jesus
and my insensitive, 
irritable words
have only served to drive them away?

Have I been that old man with the walker?
Have I lived more concerned with me than another?
Have I uttered words of impatience 
because their path toward Jesus interrupts my plans?
Has my vision been filled only with what I might lose 
instead of what another might gain?

God forbid...
that I be a stumbling block
that keeps Jesus just out of another's reach 
by my greedy heart.

Lord, have mercy...
for the moments 
of unwarranted condemnation,
of misapplied judgment.

Father, forgive me...
of my Pharisaical behavior
that links a millstone around another's neck
and suffocates faith.

May I be one 

who helps people get to Jesus, 
instead of obstructing their way.
May I be one
who makes straight the paths 
toward the One who is the way.

May I be one 
who might extend the very grace 
of the Merciful God.

As I reflect on that evening 
around the Table,
even while elbows were thrown 
to edge me back 
and words said
to put me "in my place", 
I understand my first opportunity to extend grace 
is to the one who obstructed my way.

My brother, with the walker, 
he deserves my forgiveness
because Jesus did that for me.
And if I hope to live a life
that might point another clearly to Jesus
it must start right now,
loving one who has offended me.
Choosing the hard thing.
Dying to myself.
Giving up my grudge.

To come to the table
with others who proclaim Christ, 
I must remember I belong to that man with the walker, 
and whether or not he acknowledges it or not, 
he belongs to me.
And I have a choice in this moment.

Perhaps the flow of forgiveness, mercy, love
are the very waters necessary
to erode those hidden places of my heart 
that could be potential stumbling blocks.

May I proclaim Jesus.
Only Jesus.
And for this moment, 
it means forgiveness of another's failure.
And in the moments to come, 
it means making the rough places plain so others
can run straight into the arms that never fail.

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