Last night a group of my friends and I came together to send off one of our fellow seminarians who has been called elsewhere. It’s a challenging situation, and many hearts were heavy because we didn’t want to see our friend leave – we had struggled together through classes and life, sharing in both the good and bad that comes with each new day – it’s like losing a family member.
Our friend’s request before we went our separate ways was for us to break bread together – to take communion as a group. As my friend talked about why she felt at peace about her calling, a few of us prepared the meal we were about to take, and it was quickly placed before the group. As seminarians we sort of hemmed and hawed at who should perform this sacred rite: partially because we may have felt unworthy to do such a thing, and partially because we held fast to the belief that only those who are ordained could serve communion.
Most of us who were present had been through our worship class and had learned how to serve communion – the words to be said were firmly in our hearts and minds and the movements were still present in our muscle memory; it is safe to say that we were prepared enough to do this act. But none of us were willing to step up and do it. Our friend who was leaving somewhat reluctantly agreed that she would serve the bread and the wine.
And it was the most beautiful and heartfelt meal I have had in seminary. In those moments, no words of institution were spoken as we all knew them. No big and flowing actions were completed as the bread was fractured and the wine was poured. In that moment we were a group of friends – a group of believers – sharing in the love, grace, and beauty of God’s amazing gift to us. I recognized Jesus in the voices around me as the bread was passed, and I recognized Jesus in the hands as the cup was presented to each of us.
There are moments in church when we say certain things and do certain things to refresh our memories of why we’re doing those things. We are presented with beautiful prayers and words to mark the importance and full information of why we’re partaking in those actions. We do all this stuff because it returns us through history to the very earliest churches who met in homes; small groups of men and women gathered together to hear the Word, to offer up themselves, and to eat together.
Truthfully, I believe that’s what made last night so beautiful – we were doing exactly what Christ had instructed us to do, and we were doing it as the early church had done. There were no boundaries between anyone and the meal and there were no special words to be spoken; last night we were the church. We were a group of people madly in love with one another, and madly in love with God, sharing a meal together to remember who we are, who loves us, and who our brothers and sisters are in our eyes and in God’s eyes.
I thank God for my friend who is preparing to leave – I thank God for her wisdom, her courage, her strength, her understanding, her compassion and love for everyone around her, and for her willingness to discern what the Divine is saying and to heed that voice. And I thank God for her desire to break bread with us before she leaves – this moment has solidified our relationship, and I know that no matter where God chooses to place her (or me, or any of us), I know that she and I (and we) are connected forever.
That’s what communion is about – it connects me to God, and me to those who are enjoying it with me. It brings about the remembrance of the beautiful sacrifice of Jesus, it solidifies our relationship with the Creator, and it unites people who are continually torn apart by society and life.
May God bless and bring peace to my friend’s heart (and mine, and yours), and may we continually remember those beautiful moments of eating together with our (and God’s) loved ones.
much love. sheth.