Sunday, July 02, 2006

the communion of prodigals

This morning two members of our congregation were baptized during our worship service. They are a nice couple, probably in their mid 50's, who have attended church for a long time. Last Sunday, they made the descision that they wanted to heed Christ's command, publically proclaim their faith, and be baptized.

While the communion trays were being passed up and down the rows, I was standing on stage playing something soft on the guitar. In the stillness of that moment, I looked to my left and saw something sacred; something holy. From where I was standing I could see the couple back-stage, dressed in their white robes, taking communion together...seconds before they were to be baptized.

I saw their eyes close and their brows furrow. I saw their lips move and their hands tightly hold the plastic cups of juice, as though their very lives depended on it . I saw Brian (our Senior Minsiter) standing with them, waiting patiently as that moment seem to go on forever.

I saw two people deeply in love with God; two people communing with Him through the body and the blood of His Son and their Christ. I saw two people who knew the gravity of their sin and the abundance of God's grace. I saw the communion of two prodigals.

And in witnessing that sacred event, I realized something. See, the knock on those of us who take communion every week is that, in doing so, we take something that should be holy and special, and make it routine and mundane. And the truth is, that is an accurate criticism. I agree.

But the difference is that I don't believe the only remedy is to hide our crackers and juice under lock and key 50 weeks out of the year, so that the two weeks we do allow our member to partake in Christ's death, burial, and resurrection through the physical and sensual act of communion, then become that much more meaningful.

No, I don't think the problem is that our crackers and juice are too readily available. I think the issue goes much deeper than that.

We are prodigals. Everyone of us. And it is time to return. It doesn't just happen once and then become something we grow out of and look back on. Read the story again. Enter into it. See the way the father sprints toward his broken son. That is you and that is me. Filthy, defiled and unworthy of His embrace. Yet, before we can utter our words of apology, his forgiveness washes over us like a waterfall. Because we are His and He loves us. That ought never become just a nice story we read to our Sunday Schoolers. No. That should be a picture of our every morning, our every evening...of our every waking day.

The problem is that we move too quickly, and we think too highly of ourselves. We miss the blessing of communion because we make the act of it a chore. It ceases to be something we need and becomes something we do. And so we do it, because that is what good boys and good girls do. We mindlessly bow our heads and close our eyes for a few moments every Sunday, just like everybody else, because that is how it works.

But today I caught a glimpse of something better. In the blushed faces of two people, dressed in white, holding a thimble full of grape-juice and a cracker the size of my pinky nail, I caught a glimpse of a better way.

I caught a glimpse of grace.


joey said...

Bill you cut me to the heart. I am a prodigal.

The Anonymous Human said...

you cut me deep shrek.

And they say there are no laments in churches today...

Betsy said...

you cut to the core of me. you always do. you're like a miniature buddha, covered in hair.

greg said...

Bill, you have sliced me in half and spilled out my innards. I'd say thanks, but they smell disgusting.