I was serving communion on Sunday. I had half a loaf of bread in my right hand, swaddled like a newborn, and I was tearing pieces to give to the people worshiping with us. Pinch, tear, give, cover, “The body of Christ, broken for you.” It’s a powerful moment; one of the reasons I pursued becoming an elder in the United Methodist Church. The sacraments are holy, mysterious things in which bread, water, and other common elements become conveyors of grace. Good stuff.
Now for my confession – even extraordinary means of grace can become routine in the life of a pastor. I know – you’re shocked and appalled. I wonder of ob’s and midwives would confess the same thing about birth. In any case, on Sunday, I was a little distracted. I was doing a very un-choreographed dance with my partner, who had the tray of shot-glass sized juice cups – to the rail, around the Advent wreath, around the lectern, avoid the other servers! Bend, serve, watch, move, repeat.
There are a lot of mundane things I think about as I serve communion. Are her hands open? Is he ready to receive? Do I have enough bread left to manage this group, or should I signal for more? How many folks to go? Watch me, juice server, so we make sure that everybody gets both. Is she going to be able to get up from kneeling? The juice cups are stacking up there. Who left some bread on the rail? Seriously.
Then I noticed a pair of older adults making their way to the rail with their granddaughter. The grandmother, a tall, slender, stately woman, carefully knelt at the rail, arranging her skirts. The granddaughter, who’s maybe 3 years old, watched and stepped up onto the kneeling cushion before kneeling, too. The grandfather knelt on her other side. Then the little girl realized she couldn’t see over the rail, so she stood back up. She was very cute – all blue eyes and blond hair and sweet expression. The grandparents cupped their hands, the signal that they were ready to receive, and she followed suit.
I smiled, a little wistful. I haven’t figured out how to worship with my family much yet. My son is at the church all morning, most of the time. He comes in for children’s time, twice, but then is whisked away by the childcare staff before communion, which is probably for the best for a very wiggly 2 year old. And if my husband is in church, he’s usually running the sound board, which puts him across the sanctuary and up a floor from me.
So I savored the sweetness of this family moment, of a child being brought to taste and see faith. I felt such love within me – a love that started with my child, but which, more and more, is being grown by God. And I realized that this is who I am to be as a pastor. I am called to love each and every person who comes to the rail, who comes through the door, who is a part of my community, like I am able to love this child. God continues to teach me, even when I’m not expecting an epiphany. What has God taught you lately?