by Amanda Berger
Years ago, I was visiting my hometown of Grand Island, Nebraska. I must’ve been on a break from my seminary classes and just taking a breather with my family. One of the first mornings that I was home, my dad read us an obituary in the paper—that of the grandfather of a family that I had known when I was living in Peoria. I had worked closely with the grandson, Tim, as we volunteered in the youth ministry at our church. The funeral was scheduled for that Tuesday, and I felt that it would be a good thing to go and support the family.
It was a very traditional funeral in an old Lutheran church. The congregation was wrapped in dark wood paneled walls with plush red carpeting underfoot. The scent of wax was in the air as cool, winter sunshine filtered through old stained glass. I will never forget what happened next though. The family had chosen to celebrate Holy Communion as a part of their last moments with their grandfather. And as the pastor blessed the elements, reminding us of Christ’s promise of eternal life, I felt that this family truly believed in those words. As the family and friends filed forward to receive the elements of bread and wine, I found myself being even more aware of the promise of the resurrection. This was the first funeral I had ever been to where I felt like those present were truly celebrating a life well lived rather than sunk deep in their grief. The presence of Christ resurrected was so palpable. So real.
I often find myself thinking of that experience as I receive communion during worship. The intensity of that promise of life forever with God is not one to take lightly, even when presented in such everyday, earthy elements of bread and wine. It is a promise that is often minimalized in the rush of the everyday living, but should be celebrated in everyday life.
The biggest thing I remember about my first communion experience was when we all sat around a big long table with the names of the disciples and Jesus on the table with a plate containing water, a flat cracker, representing the time that Israelites spent in the wilderness and had to live off of salt water and flat bread. As I ate the cracker, I took the small cup of water and had it all in my mouth before I could react. It was extremely salty and was awful!
Thinking back, I realize that again, it was very indirectly shown that communion is about sharing. I realize this because of how the table was set up. It was long, so you would have to wait your turn to get something on the far end and had to hope that people would take their fair share.
During Lent 2011, we are encouraging the St. Philip the Deacon community to reflect on the Sacrament of Holy Communion — recalling early memories, describing memorable celebrations of Communion, or reflecting on how Communion informs daily life. This post is part of that series. We invite your reflections about Communion, as well. If you would like to submit something for this series, please send it to Pastor Cheryl Mathison at firstname.lastname@example.org.