In Christianity, communion is a “solemn sacred act” in which devoted followers prepare to have a Holy encounter, both symbolically and experientially, with the Almighty. This sacrament, which involves communal participation in the breaking of bread and drinking of wine, globally unites followers of Jesus Christ as they commemorate His crucifixion. Although the frequency of communion varies across denominations, most followers of Jesus would agree this God-mandated sacrament helps believers everywhere to experience the love of Jesus more deeply and intimately.
With that said, I can confidently say that it is every believer’s liturgical nightmare to lose their elements while partaking in this sacred sacrament. Sadly, this is exactly what happened to me this last Sunday as my communion wafer slipped out of my hands and rolled across the auditorium into an abyss of stilettoes and Florsheim shoes. As I watched the wafer rapidly disappear into the sea of congregants, I could hear it scream as it met a sudden death. Yet that scream was quickly drowned out by the panic that followed.
Being a faithful church attendee since birth never prepared me for a situation like this. None of the countless “Purpose-Driven,” “Growth-Track,” “Alpha,” “New-Believer,” or “New-Member” classes that I participated in gave me the tiniest bit of advice as to how to handle this type of crisis (shame on them. 😉). So as my heart pounded louder and louder, I realized that I had no clue what I should do.
My first taste of alcohol was when I was twenty-four years old, and you guessed correctly… it happened during a communion service at a church that I was visiting. As someone who was raised in a denomination that frowned upon the slightest consumption of alcohol, the use of “real wine” blindsided me. In fact, the strongest drink that my childhood church used for communion was Welch’s grape juice.
I remember praying with the congregation, lifting the miniature cup of wine to my lips, and suddenly feeling a burning sensation that was completely foreign to me. Suddenly, I was faced with a dilemma that had to be settled in a matter of milliseconds. Was I to symbolically spit the blood of Jesus out? (…and if so, was this sacrilegious?) Or was I to swallow it and risk the wrath of being judged by the religious circle that I surrounded myself with? Or perhaps I could swallow it just this one time without anyone ever finding out about it? But if I chose that route, I was being dishonest, and this was definitely the “wrongest” time to ever be dishonest!
As I entered the church that day, I was greeted with a warm welcome, a package of goodies, and a church bulletin. However, they failed to provide a handbook with instructions on how to handle communion calamities. So I did as any overly-legalistic church-goer would do in my situation. I swallowed it and vowed to never tell anyone what had happened (perhaps making foolish vows during communion is also sacrilegious 😊). However, that day I learned that even in the most sacred of moments, I was still human. I also could never be 100% prepared for what I might encounter on even the holiest of days.
This past Sunday, as I experienced another communion conundrum… I sat there for a second not sure what to do; the Pastor, whose church I was visiting (why do things like this always happen when I’m visiting a church?), began talking about Jesus taking the bread and breaking it during His last supper. Still unsure of what to do, I scanned the floor of the auditorium once more to see if my wafer was anywhere to be found. If so, I was determined to make a dive to rescue it.
I could care less whether it bore the marks of a designer shoe. However, my attempt was unsuccessful. Hanging my head in shame, I turned to my wife and said, “Babe, I dropped my wafer.” My wife grinned, and without thinking twice, she broke hers in half and shared it with me (insert the sound of angelic voices and harps here). This simple act of grace spoke louder to me than anything I’ve heard in a long time.
This is what I learned from that experience…
Our brokenness always has the potential to help those in need.
Throughout my life, I have experienced many heartaches. I have suffered abuse, ridicule, isolation, and much more. Some of this was circumstantial. At other times, it was directly the consequence of my choices. The greatest repercussion of both has been shame. It wasn’t until recently that I began to face shame head on and rediscover the identity that Jesus has given me.
Sharing my story with others hasn’t been an easy feat. At times, I have faced judgment and my integrity has been questioned. Nevertheless, others have seen my vulnerability as a beacon of hope. I’m always humbled when someone reaches out and shares that they found hope in God after hearing about the hope that He has brought to me.
As my wife shared her communion wafer, I saw grace in action. She shared what she had with me. She rescued me from shame. She wasn’t obligated to do so, but she did it anyway. To many, it may be viewed as incomplete. Neither one of us had a complete wafer to ourselves. However, in that moment, it was all that either of us needed.
There is never a moment where we are not in need of grace.
Whether you want to admit it or not, you are a consumer of grace.
We all are.
There is not one moment where we aren’t the recipients of a great gift that we did not deserve.
Take a moment and take a deep breath…
Beautiful, isn’t it?
Yet you have done nothing to receive the oxygen that you have been given. It is directly a divine gift from up above.
My experience this past Sunday reminded me that even in the holiest of moments, I am still in need of grace. There will never be a day where I will not need God’s grace. So, in response, I give Him gratitude.
It’s OK to look back and laugh.
When I look at my life and all that I’ve been through, I can’t help but believe that God must have a good sense of humor. There are so many awkward and weird moments that I’ve been through. In retrospect, I have a choice. I can either mourn over them, or I can rejoice over them. I choose the latter.
John Eli Garay
This is an updated edition of a post originally on john-eli.com
Featured Image by Pixabay