The other day, my wife was preparing to leave the house with our son Luke. As she started to sit him into his car seat she found something odd hiding under the padding of the chair near the straps. What she found was a chunk of Hawaiian Bread that looked as if it was some kind of provision for those days when he desired to do some extra carb-loading. The problem is Luke is 4 months old and he does not quite have the dexterity or the cognitive ability to bring together such a complex plot. All joking aside, Lauren knew there was one place this bread must have come from and that was Holy Communion on Sunday morning. Upon some investigating, we found out our friend’s daughter, Kiah Wyllie (2), desired that Luke too would enjoy some “body of Jesus.” How thoughtful!
Truth of the matter, Holy Communion during Vine Worship at Kingwood United Methodist Church typically is quite chaotic. I can think of a few seminary professors and some of my high church colleagues that might be driven a little mad if they were to see the irreverent mess that takes place when we all come to the table. You see once I consecrate the bread and juice, asking that God might “pour out His Holy Spirit on all of us gathered,” and praying that God would “make us the body of Christ” through the reception of this meal—once that is finished volunteers come forward to serve. They are dressed in jeans, some have sandals, some are old, some are very young, most forget the right words to say, all surely have unique stories and motivations to participate. And the congregation, we are the same as those volunteers…all bringing some sort of mess forward with us. You see what I love about this meal together is that it is a reminder that none of it is based on our merit, qualifications, successes, failures, and shortcomings—not based on who is serving, how old they are, and if they remember the words just right. And all of it is based on Christ’s merit and victory, his presence right there at the meal, and his love for the whole world.
My favorite part is when our time in worship is complete and a group of children rush the altar for a little more of Jesus. Truth is, they probably really enjoy Hawaiian Bread and they probably have not yet pondered the mystical grace found at the table, but the scene is worth taking in all the same. I love that they are not concerned with what is proper, or religious, or concerned with leaving a mess. They just know they want some more bread and juice.
I pray that as they grow up in the church we might continue to be a community that does not project on them weird expectations on how to act and how to receive God. I also pray that we all might learn from them and run towards God’s grace and love and desire more of him—no concern of the “right way” to come forward, not bothered of the mess in our lives or the mess we leave behind (I think Jesus would love for us to leave our mess there at His table). Finally, I pray that I will always be as eager as Kiah to make sure my friends get to enjoy some “body of Jesus.” There is plenty to go around.
– Rev. John Wayne McMann