I haven’t written about communion before on this site because I was afraid to “ruin” it for people. A number of readers have told me that during worship they find themselves distracted thinking about the ten different hand raising styles or how we can’t clap on rhythm or some other silly idea I’ve written about. So I thought I should leave communion alone. When I told my wife this logic on Tuesday night, she laughed, oh she laughed and laughed.
What she found so funny was my inflated sense of self importance, the idea that I thought my words could radically change someone’s ability to interact with the Alpha and Omega during communion. And she’s right. If during communion, you’ve got a clear focus and open channel to God, nothing I write will change that. But if you’re like me, in addition to talking with God during communion, you’ve also got a running inner dialog that just won’t stop. Here’s what it might look like if you attend a church where communion is distributed by walking to the front and receiving it when you are ready:
“Don’t go up too early, you’ll look way too holy and fake.”
A lot of times, ministers will say something like, “Confess anything that is lingering in your heart. Square yourself with God before you come take communion.” If I sprint up to the front as soon as the communion is available, it seems like I’m saying, “Look at me. I was sinless this week and didn’t have anything to confess! Adios sinners!”
“But don’t be the last to go up, you’ll look like the worst sinner ever.”
If my entire section has gotten up for communion and I’m still sorting through some stuff with God, then chances are the people around me think that I must have kidnapped a bus full of nuns and orphans in another country, fled here to escape the police and am now living under an assumed identity. That’s what I think in my head anyway. “Why is it taking so long for that guy with the unibrow to go take communion? What has that guy done? Yikes.”
“Wait until the people near you go up so you don’t interrupt their chat with God with your exit.”
In Fight Club, Brad Pitt’s character comments on the awkwardness of scooting by someone in the aisle of a plane. He says the dilemma is whether to scoot by with your front or your back. And that awkwardness is only amplified when the people next to you are having a heart to heart with God. “Excuse me, pardon me. I know you’re talking with God, but I need to stomp on your toes for a minute and temporarily put my butt 18 inches from your head as you pray. That’s not distracting is it? No? Good.”
“I hope we’re not drinking out of a communal cup today. Come on little individual cups.”
I know Jesus could heal all of us from the cold that the third guy in line is going to leave on the lid of that cup we’re all going to drink out of, but what if He doesn’t? What if instead He uses His powers to craft a lightning bolt with my name on it because I’m thinking about germs and sloppy four hundredths instead of what the true meaning of the communion is? I am such a horrible Christian.
“Do I have to wait for my wife? Is that a team unity kind of thing?”
I don’t want to be one of those couples that dresses alike. When my wife and I come to the car in the same color shirt we usually have a wardrobe showdown, staring at each other until one of us gives in and changes. I always lose. So when it comes to walking up and getting communion, is that like dressing alike or does it show a united household if we go up together? I mean maybe God is doing something different with her right now. If I don’t wait for her, have I just committed another sin that I have to confess before I go up? If I do go up before her, do I have to tell her “bye?” Is she going to reach out her hand to hold mine while praying and find an empty chair and me up front doing my own thing? Ugh, it’s all so complicated.
It’s been a while since I’ve faced these dilemmas. Our church doesn’t do communion often and when they do, it’s more of the drive thru experience. You sit there, a large silver, spaceship like vessel carrying rings of little cups arrives in your lap. But that’s a whole different post for a whole different day.
P.S. Big thanks to Lauren M. for that fun idea.