Anyone who knows me well knows that I can be quite clumsy. One of my favorite childhood memories takes me back to the table: I was maybe about four or five, and I spilled my milk at dinner time. As I started to cry, my dad looked me straight in face, a smile shining in his eyes, put his hand on his own glass, and proceeded to knock it over on purpose. My tears turned to laughter, and I realized at that moment just how safe the table was for me.
As part of my love for the people of the church, I will often help to serve communion (the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist, however you might identify it). About three years ago, I was asked to participate in this wonderful ritual and tradition of the early church, one that stretches back nearly two thousand years. I must confess that, regardless of the newer, trendier forms of dinner church out there, there’s a certain sacredness to the ritualized moment, the offering of the bread and the cup, and over the past several years, communion for me has transformed into a beautiful symbolic manifestation of family and unity. On this particular Sunday morning, the lines of people flowed toward the front of the church to receive the elements, many hands solemnly folded before reaching the bread and the cup. But as I saw two twin boys about four years old bound up through the line, I knew this wouldn’t be the somber ritual in which most of our congregation was used to partaking. Each boy grabbed a sizeable chunk of bread, and as I lowered the cup to allow them to reach it, they submerged their entire fists into the grape juice, drips and splashes of purple falling to the scarlet carpet of the sanctuary. I tried to keep a straight face as they stuffed the soaked bread into their mouths, exclaiming how “yummy” it was loud enough for the entire congregation to hear over the piano’s gentle atmospheric music. Some church members pursed their lips and glared. Others’ faces contorted into strained smiles, as though holding back laughter. While I revere the significance of the feast at the Table with Jesus and all of humanity, it is here where we encounter space for gentle reminders that we are all human. The Lord’s Supper, Communion, or Eucharist – it’s simply and beautifully a gathering around a table. And the best part? Someone is bound to knock something over, to spill something, to leave crumbs, to ask for seconds. It is here where we can be reminded that forgiveness overflows from the table’s edge and runs richly out the doors of the church.