What crossed my mind this morning was a scene from a movie. Probably several movies. The scene is from Home Alone and comes at the end of the movie (I think) as Kevin is reuniting with his family he sees the scary old man that ended up being not so scary when he met him at church. Kevin looks out his window and across the street to see the old guy reuniting with his family, from whom he had been estranged. The camera follows Kevin’s gaze across the snow covered yards and through the window, where the light inside and the warmth of the people gathering around the table spilled out on to the snow below. Kevin was in the throes of reuniting and reconciling with his family, but it was something different to look across the street and see the same feelings of family manifested around someone else’s table, as if to say, “This is real; see, it’s happening there, too.”
Yes, I probably am giving the movie credit for more insight that it deserves, and that’s what I thought of this morning as we were sharing Communion together. Actually, today was one of those days when it was more like the Lord’s Supper. During Lent, we are observing Communion a different way each Sunday as a way of looking at what it means to us as a community of Christians. Last Sunday we began with intinction. Today, we walked into a sanctuary that had two tables set in front of the altar, each one with bread and a chalice. Ginger and Carla explained we would come up in groups of twelve or so at each table and share the Supper together, passing the elements to one another.
We started with the back rows. They walked down the aisle and circled the two tables. I watched as they listened to the instructions and then began to move as the bread was passed one to another. I could read their lips: “The body of Christ for you.” They smiled at one another, held the chalice for each other to dip the bread. Some looked tentative, not knowing exactly when to eat. There were smiles, tears, quiet looks. And I felt like Kevin, looking across the street and through the window to see what a family looks like coming together, as Neal, our pianist, played
my faith has found a resting place
not in device nor creed
I trust the ever living One
his wounds for me to plead
Our service began with a shock. We gathered to news that James, our music director, was in a car accident in Nebraska, where he was visiting friends, and is now in an ICU at a hospital in Lincoln. No one knew more than that. We only know tonight that the car caught on fire and he ingested both the fire and some smoke. Before we did anything else, we prayed for him and his wife and family, who were all headed to Nebraska to be with him. And he stayed close to our hearts the rest of the service, all the way to the Table.
It has been probably since my days of leading youth camps that I have gotten to watch others share Communion. I’ve stood in line to kneel at the altar and receive the Supper, watching those go before me, but to sit and watch as I waited my turn, to watch them do what I was going to do, was a fresh perspective.
Perhaps I would do better to say a fragile perspective, because that was the overarching image for me: we looked fragile as we stood around the table, passing the bread and the cup. I could hear a hymn of another kind:
on and on the rain will fall
like tears from a star
like tears from a star
on and on the rain will say
how fragile we are
how fragile we are
And from the center of that vulnerability, I watched those who stood around the table together move through the pain and the uncertainty that life holds to feed one another in Jesus’ name: “This is the body of Christ, broken for you.” I saw what faith looks like in those who both led and followed me to the Table.
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase,” Dr. King said. He was one who knew of both faith and fragile, and who knew what a circle of friends committed to God and to one another could do. Sometimes it is nothing more than coming together to eat and to pray.
“Love doesn’t mean doing extraordinary or heroic things. It means knowing how to do ordinary things with tenderness,” says John Vanier. “Community is made of the gentle concern that people show each other everyday. It is made up of the small gestures, of services and sacrifices which say ‘I love you’ and ‘I am happy to be with you.’ It is letting the other go in front of you, not trying to prove you are right in a discussion; it is taking the small burdens from one another” (78). It is deciding that every gesture we make, from passing the bread to passing one another in the hall, will be one that says, “We are in this together.”
Every time we come to the Table, there are more stories to tell. Sharing Communion together is how we mark time, and how we tell time. And what are we telling time? What I saw today tells of those who are walking wounded, who are acquainted with grief, who don’t know what is coming next, and who commune with one another and with God, full of the joy and hope that comes from knowing we are not alone.
I can believe my eyes.