Archive for the ‘communion’ Category

My first perceptions of God were grounded in my early childhood experiences with my grandfather. Of course, I didn’t realize this at the time, but he was a shadow of the image I would carry of Papa God. He was my good shepherd. Communion, or gathering around the Lord’s Table, was like sharing a meal with my grandfather. 🙂 My experiences with him were much more heavenly and divine than either of us could have imagined. He gave me an earthly identity rooted in goodness and love.

 

I wish I could tell you that I stayed in this sweet spot of believing the amazing love the Lord has for all His little lambs. I didn’t. For years, I wrapped myself in the religious thoughts of men and left my childlike faith. There were dark days of believing that I was not welcome to sit at His Table, much less to taste His love. I believed the Lord’s love was for younger me, not for grown me who saw the fruits of insecurity, loneliness, and abandonment as my identity.  However, the Lord is amazing, and He provided me strong memories of an earthly shepherd who would  “gather the lambs in his arms, carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.” (Isaiah 40:11) Over a period of ten years, I began to change my mind about the Lord and remember a sweeter time of communion.

Thankfully, God never changed his mind about me. I was his little lamb even as I roamed through the tangles of the valley.

I find peace in remembering that  Broken Bread would not be needed without broken people– living bread for all to eat.  I’m convinced that communing at His Table is abundantly more than a Sunday tradition of remembrance. It’s a gift to teach us how to live everything He has promised. 

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What are some “shadow’s of love” in your life?

Do you have someone that you shepherd, mentor, or disciple? It’s a way to leave an inheritance far greater than financial wealth.

 
 
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If you have been following my blog you know that I have been spending time reflecting on communion and how special the meal was to me as a little girl growing up in a small Southern Baptist church that my family attended. I experienced amazing joy-filled times reflecting on the Lord’s sacrifice and believing that His Table was as much for me as it was for anyone else. For a while there wasn’t any sense of separation, condemnation, or shame surrounding the Lord’s Table. My life was at Jesus’ feet. Sadly, the wind changed directions, and I began to believe one of my first religious lies.

The majority of Southern Baptist churches celebrate communion on the first Sunday of each quarter which, as I’ve shared before, was one of my favorite days. It was a family celebration and similar to a homecoming! Because the front row was typically reserved for the pastor and any special guests, I settled on the second row in order to experience everything. Reverently and humbly, four deacons would come to serve the meal to the waiting fellowship. The only sounds were the men’s shoes on the hard-wood floors as they systematically walked through the building passing the trays and the clicking sounds of fingers against trays as they received the bread and wine. There was a sense of harmony in their serving as if the Spirit just settled and hovered over the church body for that particular time. It was like watching the divine unfold in a sunrise or in the handiwork of a baby’s tiny toes. There was this sense of knowing that there was much more going on than the physical. As closely as I could, I watched and had I been allowed, I would have stood with the pastor.

The wind changed when someone tattled.

After one of the communions when I was around twelve, someone told my mother that I was turned around backwards in the pew. Apparently, a little girl sitting backwards in her seat watching the men serve communion was not keeping with the honor and respect of the meal. From then on, I was told to remain seated forward or sit in the back of the sanctuary. Even though this happened twenty nine years previous, the memory has not faded over time. It remains a defining moment that planted a seed of doubt in my mind.

Believing there was something that I could do “wrong” during communion gave my foundation a shake. My faith had been in Jesus who, had we met in person, I believed would have  thrown me in the air, watched me giggle, and pulled me into His lap. Furthermore, if it were that easy to “mess up” communion, then what about the complexities of daily life that begin to peak around adolescence? Perhaps the first religious lie I ever believed was that I could do something, even by accident, to create distance between me and God.  Unfortunately, the enemy knows a foothold when he sees it, and I began to feel an uncertainty about my place at the Lord’s Table.

Please don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t the end of good memories! There are plenty more to come, which I’m planning on sharing in future blogs.  This is just a small piece of my story. The great news is that God loves to pursue His children!  One of my favorite verses comes from The Message in 2 Corinthians 5:20-21: “We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.”  This speaks rivers of hope to me! Oh friends, if you have ever believed the lie that I did for so very long, I pray that today you will only believe what He believes about you! He has never quit being your (or my) friend no matter what we’ve done!!

Presently, I attend a church that encourages children to touch and taste the sweetness and goodness  during communion. I consider it a sweet gift from the Lord  to see the post-millennial generation comfortable enough to reach out and touch the body and blood of Christ. God loves to bring renewal, and I believe the children in my church are one way the Lord is restoring my faith in His Table. 🙂

Note: Yes, someone tattled, but that’s not the reason that my faith wavered. I believe it shook because there’s an enemy that lives to wreck our thoughts. Churches serve communion in a variety of ways. Some are reverent and others casual. That’s not the point. The point goes all the way back to the garden of Eden where the serpent was persistent in messing with man’s thoughts of God’s original plan of union between us and Him. 

It was Friday afternoon and, for months, I had been looking forward to hearing a pastor that was coming from out of town to speak at our church. I had stayed on schedule all day and saved just enough time to attend a small gathering to meet our guest before the meeting started; however, the phone rang a few minutes before I was planning to leave. It was a friend who was asking if I could help with food to feed her family.

Did I mention that it was Friday afternoon, and I was trying to get to church to hear a speaker that I had been waiting months to meet and hear?

I made a quick list of the non-profits in the area that offer food assistance and sent a text with the information to my friend in need, but who was I kidding? All of the places were closing up for the day and would not re-open until Monday. I knew I needed to go the extra mile. I decided to do a quick post asking the social media world if there were any food distributions happening over the weekend. Done! Mile traveled! I was finally on my way to the meeting and would make it right on time. God will provide for the family, I thought to myself.

On the way, a text message told me that the get-together before the meeting had been canceled. Consequently, I had an hour to spare. It would be lovely to go to Panera Bread and just relax, eat, and read for a few minutes before the meeting started. Fortunately, I couldn’t shake the earlier phone call, nor the thoughts of someone being hungry, nor the fact that I knew where there might be some food to take the family in need. But, did I have time to get the food and take it to the family before the meeting started? I would hurry!! I went to our church’s storage closet where we sometimes have some extra canned goods. Now, I actually thought I had given almost all of the food away from that closet a few weeks back, so I wasn’t expecting to find much–if anything. And, once I looked in the closet, it  really didn’t look like much, but I loaded what was there into my van. I loaded until my back seat was full. I was so surprised! I looked at the time and thought, nope, I don’t have time to get this to the family today. I would try and deliver on Saturday. Surely this family could wait until tomorrow. Ya’ll know God wasn’t going to let that happen, right?

Having a little time before church, I sat down with my phone and happened to see I had a notification on my Facebook from the earlier post. A woman in the neighborhood that ministers to children that are living in motels and homeless shelters had leftover food from her food delivery ministry, and I was welcome to come get it for the family. I was right, God would provide for my friend’s family, but he was making me late for church. Of course, I said yes! I quickly looked at my watch and drove to her house to pick up the food.

Leftovers, really? I walked into this sweet lady’s home and her dining room table was FULL of food: watermelon, fruit tray, large tray of yogurt, flour, rice, cereals, breads, canned goods, sweets! I was AMAZED at the bounty. Her gifts combined with what was in my backseat would be such a blessing.  As grateful as I was for the food, I saw the perishable items and knew that the food would have to be delivered immediately. Darn. Still trying not to be late to the meeting, I left on two wheels to deliver the food.

The day was hot and humid. Miserable weather. I had already changed clothes three times that day, and I had not planned for this excursion around town. The air conditioner in my van barely works and the windows do not come down, so I was sweating through another outfit and grumbling. As if I needed any more irritation, I had forgotten exactly where my friend lived and was just wandering. Thank God it was only for a few minutes and not forty years!

GET OUT OF MY WAY GOD, I’M TRYING TO GET TO CHURCH. I actually said this outloud and meant it for about 10 seconds.

The absurdity of my attitude during this situation began to settle on me.

I was exactly where God wanted and needed me. Feeding His sheep.

Realizing I was on the wrong street, I finally corrected my mistake and arrived at her home where my friend was waiting and was thrilled at the provision for her family. The next day I received a message from the woman who donated the feeding route’s leftovers. Would this family need food next Friday? If so, she would gladly set aside groceries for me to pick up! I did not have to ask the Lord, consult a committee, or check my schedule. The answer was yes. I knew the Lord would provide for my friend. Initially, I had hoped he would use the local mission or someone else that had “a little more time”, but over the course of the afternoon, His Presence tutored me in the ways of Love. There’s always enough time to love!

For several weeks I have been reflecting on communion and trying to understand “my place” at His Table. You see, I’m convinced that communion is so much more than the weekly or monthly sacraments that we share during a time of fellowship within the church body. I’m convinced that we are witnessing a prophetic picture of the body of Christ (which is now us) broken for the world.  “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19 (NIV) Yes, we spend time celebrating and remembering the finished work of the Lord, but there’s so much more to His Table than a short celebration!  In 1 Corinthians 12:27 Paul says, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” I believe the table we celebrate around on Sunday falls short without an open Table every moment of every day for the spiritually and physically hungry. When communion lacks community, it’s not communion. Nora Gallagher in her book, The Sacred Meal, writes about her work in a soup kitchen to feed the homeless, “When I walked in the door, I felt I was walking toward the same place I sought when I took Communion.” This is what I experienced when I arrived to deliver my friend’s food. The body of Christ broken for the world–God of living Bread. It isn’t spoken any clearer than in John 21:17, when the apostle wrote, “He  said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”  Anytime we meet a need it always goes beyond the physical. 

Lastly, I should mention that I arrived in plenty of time to meet our guest and attend the meeting at our church. God didn’t disappoint me, in fact, He ministered to me sweetly and tenderly throughout the weekend. 

Being tutored in Love isn’t always comfortable nor convenient. But, it is quite beautiful that God created us in His image and then left His presence to teach us to walk in His original design…we are created from LOVE to be LOVE to a world that needs LOVE!  🙂

 

 

That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (KJV)

Do you remember your first communion? My husband was somewhat surprised recently when I shared that I could recall almost every detail of mine. It is one of those memories that I have treasured in my heart since I was ten years old. As a general rule in our little church, only baptized believers were invited to the Lord’s Table to share the bread and wine, so how could I forget the day that I was invited inside the community fellowship? Not only was I allowed through the “gate”, I was also allowed to have my very own place at the table.

One of my favorite bible stories is in Exodus where God provides manna for the Israelites, It’s amazing to think about God providing bread for His people for forty years. As I took my first piece of unleavened bread from the communion tray, I remembered thinking about manna. Even though I was young, I understood the hope in God’s provision and, for some reason, I connected it to the meal I was eating. Although I was delighted to be sharing in the breaking of bread, unleavened bread did taste a little odd, and I wondered if manna tasted odd to the Israelites. Maybe communion and manna have nothing to do with each other, but I cherish the sweet and curious thoughts of “younger me”. Other times I think about those thoughts and wonder if “younger me” knows more about tasting Jesus than “older me”, which reminds me of these verses: “And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:1-3 (KJV)

As a child I did not understand exactly why we needed to drink the blood of Christ, but I did understand what it represented. New Life. My heart fluttered when the deacon stopped and offered the cup to me. The taste of the juice was cool and sweet and was served in individual communion glasses passed to the congregation in silver trays. Being obedient to Jesus’ words in participating in the Lord’s Supper gave me a new identity as one of Christ’s disciples. It was a name I was happy to receive.

Remembering my first communion cannot be complete without mentioning the concluding song. Immediately following communion we joined hands and sang Blest Be The Tie. This was in keeping with the tradition of Matthew 26:30: “And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.” We were an instrumental church fellowship; however, this was the only time I remember us singing without a piano accompaniment. I can still see individual faces and hear voices rising up from that song as we circled the sanctuary. There was nothing professional about it, only a joyful presence before the Lord.

Thirty years later, I enjoy reflecting on my first communion. There is so much more to share, and I look forward to writing about it. I did not always stay in this “spot” of rest and joy before the Lord. I’ve traveled through some dark times since then; however, God didn’t let me stay there. He is an amazingly sweet Papa that goes after the “one”, and I’m forever grateful for that part of his character. The little church that I grew up at taught me that communion is a beautiful gift. I have also learned that there are many ways to celebrate communion, and I’m fascinated with the diversity that God placed in humanity. Everyday I’m learning a little more about His Table, Communion, Community, and Love. Today I celebrate with a community of believers that practices open communion every Sunday. It’s the sweetest part of my week. 🙂

Notes:

Recently my mom gave me a couple of communion glasses from the church from my childhood (they’ve recently changed to disposable cups). I was delighted! My heritage runs deep at that little church, and the glasses are a treasure, filled to the brim with love. 

I have used scriptures from the King James Version for this blog piece in order to be consistent with the translation I heard as a child. I read my first NIV bible when I was a sophomore in high school. Until that point, I had no idea there were other interpretations. 

 

Reflections:

Do you remember your first communion?

What is Papa God teaching you through communion?

 

 

 

 

I grew up in a small Southern Baptist church where communion was served each quarter on the first Sunday of the month. Preparation for the holy day began the night before as my mom pressed Daddy’s shirt and did a close inspection of his suit which was neatly hung on the hall tree for Sunday morning. Our family lived on a dairy farm, so Sunday morning was regularly a rush of activity as breakfast was served, 100+ cows were milked, calves were fed, and a frenzied pursuit of the bathroom as we all waited our turn. Daddy would come in at the last minute, looking and smelling as most farmers do, only to transform within minutes to a tall, dark, clean-shaven deacon ready to serve the Lord’s supper to the members at our little church. Our family of five loaded in the car and rode in anticipation of the beauty that surrounds the Table of the Lord. Even though it was not until I was eleven when I had my first communion, my little spirit was awakening to the sweetness and grace surrounding the invitation. Communion for our family started long before arriving at the building where we would join the greater community. It started with the smell of Love. Communion is becoming my favorite part of the church gathering. Lately I’ve been reflecting on the meaning of communion for the body of Christ. I decided to blog my reflections over the next few posts.