Last Sunday a child came forward in the Communion line at the 8:30 a.m. service. He crossed his arms for a blessing and for some reason couldn’t stop giggling: “The blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be upon you and make you a blessing to your family.” The giggles continued, so I teased him with a slight noogie on the top of his head.
His mom, who was right behind him, stared at her son with a look of disapproval combined with embarrassment – a look every parent knows well. She stepped forward and I tried to lighten the mood. “Holy laugher!” I exclaimed. She smiled as she held out her hands for a wafer.
Five days later, I was chalice bearer at Candlelight Communion. I presented the blood of Christ to a parishioner who responded with a wry smile and exhausted eyes, “I need the whole cup.” Must have been one of those days.
I love stories from Communion. Every clergy person and chalice bearer has them. There are mishaps, like someone dropping their wafer over the Communion rail and looking up in horror. There are awkward moments, like chasing down a tourist who pocketed their wafer as a souvenir and urging them to consume it. And there are awkward mishaps, like the time I spilled wine on someone’s shirt and told him it would come out in the wash! (I was a pretty green chalice bearer back then.)
There are also moments of great meaning, such as pressing the wafer into someone’s palm with my thumb and clasping my fingers around the back of their hand – either because I know they’re going through something or because tears are streaming down their face.
Communion is inherently a time of grace and joy, whether that joy is light or heavy. Yes, joy can be heavy, especially when mixed with sorrow. One of my favorite hymns is “I come with joy to meet my Lord”. It’s all about coming forward for Communion, aware of our forgiveness through Christ and united with him and each other in love.
Whatever joy you bring to the altar this Sunday, whether lighthearted, sober, or tinged with pain, know that you are held in a compassionate embrace by Christ and his body, the Church.
I come with Christians far and near
to find, as all are fed,
the new community of love
in Christ’s communion bread.