Many of the abstract parts of Christianity are difficult for me, but communion has always felt easy. Instead of quiet prayers or beliefs, communion provides something to hold, smell, do, and taste. Regardless of how we serve it, I love the physicality of the bread and wine. Whether given thimbles of grape juice and tasteless wafers or hunks of soft bread and goblets of wine, communion has always been an invitation and a rare chance for me to press my knees into the cushion of the altar. It is not just the physical action but the singularity. A person at the front hands me a hunk of break and says, “This is Christ’s body broken for you.” Spoken just to me. Given just to me.
I’m not especially drawn to tradition or formalities. I prefer a church service with a guitar to an organ. I’d rather wear jeans than my Sunday best, but communion has always had a way of fixing what is broken inside me. I know certain denominations believe different things about what the bread and wine signify or what happens or who can take it. I don’t care if it is a symbol or a mystery. I just like the chance to remember what Jesus did on His last night with His friends. To break bread is holy whether you do it at a table or an altar or in your living room.
Christ did not only speak of the bread of life but often of actual bread. Christ physically feeds the multitudes, He turns water into wine at a wedding, and He breaks bread with His friends. The metaphor doesn’t work without the physicality, without the hungry hands accepting His gift. Maybe this is the reminder I need each time my church offers me communion. That faith is complicated and abstract, but also simple enough to be held in my own hungry hands.
My particular church celebrates communion once a month and offers an open table, meaning that anyone is welcome to partake. This means that if my own children have made it all the way through the service I take them with me. I know they don’t fully know what it means, but I still bring them down the center aisle. I know many faith traditions have different conditions for communion, but I find hope in the fact that I don’t have to completely understand it to accept the gift. The same could be said for many more aspects of my faith.
One communion Sunday, my son stopped coloring on the program long enough to listen to what the person breaking bread at the front was saying. The pastor explained what communion signifies and means as he ripped the round loaf in half.
My son, only six but already a realist, says, “They just bought that at the store. It didn’t come from God.” Then repeated it in case we didn’t hear or in case the people in the pew behind us didn’t hear. I laughed out loud instead of shushing his observations. Maybe I shouldn’t have but his honesty stood out in a place where people often hide their questions. I let my husband try to explain the bread as a symbol, which was far too much for his six-year-old head. He came to the altar with us anyways. Probably for a snack or the relief of not sitting still for a few minutes or maybe just to ask where they bought the loaf. He stuck out his little hand and gladly took the store-bought bread and the grape juice in the little cup from his friend’s dad. He ate and drank and headed back to our pew to squirm and color.
My son was correct in his statement. I’m sure they bought the bread at the store. I wondered for the first time if the church had a Costco account. I’m pretty sure it is just King’s Hawaiian bread and grape juice they buy in bulk. It made me wonder who provided the meal that night a long time ago, in the upper room. Then, it was also just bread and wine in a cup and twelve friends around a table. Where the meal came from did not matter. What made it important was who was there and the words that were said. What matters most is that Jesus was willing to be broken and spilled out for them. And for me.
Once a month, I tear off my piece of grocery store bread and drink my plastic thimbleful of grape juice, and remember how ordinary things can become so holy.Leave a Comment