Sunday, January 2, 2011
A Painful Look in the Mirror
Depending on your background you might refer to it as The Lord's Supper. Or the Eucharist. Maybe Communion. Our church does so once a month. Typically, four people are asked to serve and at the appropriate time they walk to the front of the sanctuary, two standing on the left and two on the right, each couple holding a loaf of bread and a chalice of wine. This morning before our worship service began, our pastor asked my wife and me if we would be one of the couples and we agreed to do so and then proceeded to take our seats as the service began.
Our sanctuary is long and narrow. Consequently, any movement or commotion is seen by all. There is one guy who attends and obviously is not of the same socio-economic status as most of us and simply doesn't fit in (you know, the kind that Jesus loves). We had a guest speaker and he was delivering the sermon and the misfit who was sitting about three rows from the front and in the middle of the row decided to get up and leave the sanctuary. He couldn't squeeze by several people so they had to stand up and let him out of the aisle. He ambled to the back of the sanctuary. He does this all the time. Interfering and distracting. I mumbled something silently and there was good reason for doing it silently. The speaker continued. A few minutes later the misfit (you know, the kind Jesus didn't judge) returned, but decided he wanted to sit in the very front pew. He took his time and we all saw that he plopped himself down in the front pew. Apparently, he became disenchanted with the view and wanted his former seat back, so he got up, walked back a few rows and the couple had to get up in order for him to resume his initial position. As the speaker continued I impulsively muttered--quietly but not silently--"Would you just sit down!" (You know, something Jesus would say.) The speaker continued and eventually completed his homily without further interruption. And the misfit was now off my radar.
The time came to celebrate and honor the Eucharist. My wife and I walked up front as did the other couple and two lines formed as the entire congregation waited to partake. Slowly, one after another approached and as they took a piece of bread from my wife she said to each individual, "This is the body of Christ broken for you." I, in turn, held the chalice and as each person dipped their morsel of bread I said, "This is the blood of Christ shed for you. Go in peace." I'm not paying attention to the line; I'm simply seeing the person who is now in front of me to receive the blessing, as one after another files by. I find the misfit standing before me with his piece of bread in his hand. As his eyes peer into mine I find myself ashamed and convicted of my judgmental attitude. If I had possessed the moral courage I would and should have said to him, "I should be asking for forgiveness from you; you should be standing before me and I should be the one dipping the bread in the chalice you hold." My cowardice and ego kept me from saying any such thing. Who was I to be administering this holy sacrament? Who am I to cast myself in a superior role and look down on this person whom I regard as inferior?
I could barely make eye contact with him as I said to him, "This is the blood of Christ shed for you. Go in peace."
You know, something Jesus would say.