“Communion”

We made our way down the aisle of the church to the altar. In my four year old hands was a little piece of bread, and the tiniest cup I had ever seen. My sisters Patty and Cookie (Marie’s longtime nickname) were next to me and we all had a severe case of the giggles. I had no idea where our brother Melvin was…probably at home or anywhere but this cold and cavernous torture chamber we endured every Sunday since moving from Ft. Benning.

The cup looked like one of my moms thimbles, and the Kool Aid inside tasted bad. The ‘bread’ was worse. Hard and crunchy and utterly tasteless.

Dad wasn’t happy with us for cutting up, which of course made us laugh even more. The Methodist minister was instructing us and reciting scripture about a body and blood. I didn’t know I was supposed to wait. What four year old boy waits to eat a snack and drink Kool Aid? I looked around at the church and all the stained glass windows. I expected the guy hanging on that cross to be looking at me just like Dad was…angry and exasperated.

It was the last time we attended that church. We weren’t religious so it was no big deal. We had recently moved to town and my parents were trying to find a place to belong. When you’ve been a military family for so long you miss the community that comes with the shared experience of Army service and life on the base.

It would be more than a decade before our family would be found inside a house of worship.

By now our laughter was attracting unwanted attention. I remember being gathered up and going home. We were in trouble for reasons unknown to me. We breathed a collective sigh of relief when the next Sunday rolled around and we all slept in.

It was my first communion.

It would be ten years until my next Lord’s Supper and it couldn’t have been more different.

It was another Sunday…March 9, 1975 to be precise. I can be certain of the date because that was the day I surrendered my life to Christ. I was far from being a believer, but I heard Holy Spirit calling that day and I walked the aisle and accepted Jesus as savior.

I had gone with a friend of mine to his church that morning, and my life was forever changed. I can’t remember how my parents reacted to the news. I was the youngest of seven kids, and none of us saints by a long shot. At thirteen I was on the verge of wandering paths that would be difficult to retrace toward home. God had other plans and other paths for me.

That night I went back to church with my friend. I sang with their youth choir and we took communion at the end of the service. The ‘wine’ still wasn’t very good, and the bread was still bitter…but that night it quenched and filled me in ways that even to this day I cannot understand.

Ten years earlier I had no clue as to the significance of this ordinance of the church. Communion is one of the few things that Jesus commanded us to do. To break the bread of His body, and drink the wine of His blood that atones for our sins. And while following his command that we are to remember.

During my first communion, I was looking around as kids do at that big cold church. I remember being bored and all that. But I remember so vividly the images of the sunlight illuminating the beautiful stained glass windows. Saints and angels and the Son of God…I can still see them in my mind’s eye. There was no judgement on the face of that Christ. In the hallway leading out of the sanctuary was a painting of Jesus, and He wasn’t exasperated…He was smiling.

Since those days I’ve taken communion many, many times, remembering so many things. I’ve traveled far and been in many church services where I’ve learned there are many ways to take communion. But there are some doctrines that would limit who can receive this Lord’s Supper, and I’m sure they have their reasons why. Some say that kids can’t partake. Others would deny the sacrament to people ‘under church discipline’ or whatever that means. I don’t claim to be a biblical scholar, but I remember reading that Jesus never seemed to turn down a dinner invitation, whether from the saints or from the sinners. I don’t see Him turning away those who are hungry and thirsty, no matter what…

Communion on that March Sunday was sweet and special…but I don’t regret my giggling first ‘last supper.’ I remember…and I’m thankful.

Postscript:

I have struggled with this post for days. Remembering sometimes stirs up unwanted ghosts along with the good. I struggle with being worthy of the table of God’s sacrifice. I know than none of us are…but too many warnings about taking this meal in vain leaves a hole never entirely filled. The enemy would fill this void with fear, but Holy Spirit extends His grace and mercy even now.

No bread left to be broken
The cup’s long since run dry
When grace is not enough
Love will say goodbye

But Grace is still a mystery
And Love makes no mistakes
The body and the blood
The bread and the new wine
To this table all are bidden
None need say goodbye