Sweet communion

by Joy Wendt

 

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Participating in the rite of Communion four weeks in a row is one of the perks of being the wife of a man who pastors four churches. The danger is that the special service can become commonplace. When the kids begin to sigh, “Oh no, not Communion again,” it’s time for a new game plan. That’s why my husband, David, and I decided that when one of our churches had Communion week, I would take the children to another one of our churches. That worked out great—most of the time.

As our children blossomed into the early teen years, their commitments, responsibilities, and social lives sometimes resulted in my driving them to a church different from the one I intended to attend. After missing Communion twice, I realized that something had to change. I did not want to continue to miss the blessings and cleansing that Communion brings and the sweet sense of renewal in Christ it offers.

A plan for Communion

Planning ahead, I told our children that we would all attend the next Communion together as a family. As the special day approached, I felt a refreshing sense of anticipation. Reading the closing scenes of Christ’s life in two different gospels, I prayed that the Holy Spirit would cleanse my soul and grant me the gift of repentance. I thought of the people I would meet at church and prayed that we all would be prepared for the holy time ahead. Finally, I asked God if there was anyone whom I needed to make amends with so that nothing would hinder my prayers.

Gathering the children, I was glad it had not been one of those mornings when the hustle and bustle dim even a sunny day. Even our half-hour drive was pleasant, and so was the early class before church. Finally, it was time. After my husband announced where each group would go for footwashing, I met up with an old friend visiting from out of town. As I washed her feet, I remembered a story I had read about a prisoner-of-war who missed partaking in Communion so much that he fashioned a cup from tin foil and saved some of his moldy prison-ration bread to remember Christ’s sacrifice. Tears threatened as my heart whispered a prayer of thanks to God for the privilege of Communion.

After the footwashing, my friend and I prayed together and found our seats. Saliva flooded my mouth as I anticipated the bread. The deaconesses in this church had a good recipe for Communion bread that made you crave more. I know you are not supposed to think about how the bread tastes, but it made my mind consider the symbolism of craving the satisfying Word of God.

The fervent search

Seeing the deacons rise and walk to the front of the sanctuary snapped my thoughts back to the events at hand. I smiled at my friend as we anticipated the service. Suddenly I felt an urgent tap on my shoulder. A forced whisper assaulted my ear: “I need you now!” Looking over my shoulder, I saw a woman quickly exiting the church. Glancing apologetically at my friend, I shrugged as I jumped up to go after the woman. My friend, also a pastor’s wife, gave me an understanding nod.

As David ate the bread with me, joining me in my affliction, I saw a living reflection of the much greater love of my kinsman Redeemer.

As I followed Sally1 out the door, she erupted, “I can’t believe it. That woman is too much!” Thus began the sad tale of how a well-meaning but misguided older woman—Myrtle2—had taken up a crusade against Sally’s daughter, Lisa.3 Dropping to my knees on the concrete, I implored Sally to pray to the True Healer with me. As we prayed, I begged God for wisdom and understanding to know how to communicate with everyone involved and for His loving protection for Lisa. Tears streamed down Sally’s cheeks as she expressed concern for her daughter. She told me that Myrtle had decided to use Lisa as an example of dress reform and had actually ordered her to go home to change on a few occasions. Lisa had complied and put on an ankle-length skirt, even though her previous skirt reached her knees, the modesty standard her parents had set. But it was apparently not enough compliance for Myrtle. Her bullying included accusations that Lisa was trying to flirt with the boys and acting “whorishly.” Sally told me that her daughter tried to avoid the woman, but it was not working.

Now, on this special Communion day, Myrtle had cornered Lisa and loudly demanded that they be partners in the foot-washing service, so that they could “fix” their relationship. When Lisa said she had no grudge, Myrtle laughed out loud and accused the girl of lying in the presence of all the other women. Grabbing Lisa’s hands, Myrtle prayed loudly for God to help Lisa to love others more. Then Myrtle opened her eyes, looked at Lisa, and declared that girl still did not love her and prayed again. Each of the three times Myrtle did this, Lisa told her that she did love her.

Finally, the girl could take no more humiliation and ran from the church in tears. Sally was worried that her daughter might try to harm herself because she had become depressed about the situation. “Help me find her please!” Sally begged. “I don’t have the keys to the car, and my husband is up front.”

Taking my car, we scoured the area around the church and drove to Sally’s home, which was within walking distance of the church, in case Lisa had gone there. My mind reeled in shock as I drove. I had known both of these elder’s wives for years and each of their strengths and weaknesses, but I had not imagined Myrtle’s cruelty to be so strong toward a young person such as Lisa. Even though Myrtle may have been trying to seek healing of the relationship, the way that she had approached it left me feeling nauseous on a day that I had planned to be so special.

Finally, with no other ideas of where to look, Sally and I returned to the church. Suddenly, her eyes lit up as she spotted Lisa behind the glass in the mother’s room. Letting mother and daughter have a moment of reunion together, I waited in the foyer. Finally, I entered the mother’s room and embraced Lisa. “It’s OK, it’s not your fault,” I crooned and held her as I would my own daughter. With a tear-stained face, the adolescent gazed up at me with grateful brown puppy eyes filled with hope. “I know,” she said in a broken voice. “Jesus told me she didn’t know what she was doing.” As I glanced over at a beaming Sally, I saw that the tears of joy pouring from my eyes were met by ones flowing from hers. “Praise God!” she mouthed to me. “Amen,” my lips silently replied back. With one last squeeze, I left Lisa in her mother’s loving care and returned to my seat.

Stunned by the exhibition of grace I had just witnessed, I did not even realize the Communion service was over until my handsome pastor-husband walked by my row and gave me that special look. Only this time, concern mixed with the twinkle in his eyes as he saw my tears. “Well, I missed the bread and juice, Lord,” I prayed, “but it’s OK; I have food enough.” Sweet Communion!

Another miss

The next week was Communion at one of our other churches, but I was sick. I mused to myself, Missed it again!

A Voice prompted in my heart, Why do you have to miss it? I looked at myself in my exercise pants and hoodie sweatshirt surrounded by tissues and other props of illness.

Well, I’m not exactly in shape to go! I laughed to myself.

Why not ask the pastor to bring Communion to you, the shut-in? the Voice asked.

I thought about the many times David had brought Communion to hospitals and homes. In spite of having the four churches with all those Communions, he never failed to offer it to anyone who wanted it. While it was something I admired about my pastor-husband, I was not sure I dared ask for myself. Would he think I was weird? Aware of what had happened the previous week with Sally, he had encouraged me in my ministry to her daughter.

I glanced at my watch and knew that David was already preaching in the pulpit. If I texted him, his phone would vibrate and make the ancient mic ring with feedback. Do it, the Voice urged, text him anyway. So, I sent the plea, “Do you think you could bring home some bread and juice for me?” I did not expect a reply, yet it did not stop me from nervously awaiting his arrival.

Both kids were at friends’ homes until evening, which intensified the silence in the house as I waited alone. I pondered what my husband might have thought of the text. Would he know I was serious, or would he think I was joking? Did he even have time to read the text since the service would run longer due to Communion? Then there was the greeting period. He might be home before he ever saw the text. My heart fainted at the thought. For some reason, I craved this blessing more than ever.

Blessing from a soda glass

When I heard the garage door open, my heart began to pound. When my husband’s footsteps sounded in the hall, I tried to tidy up my area on the couch and straighten my hair. After all, the pastor was coming over!

As he entered the living room, my husband flashed a big grin as he held up a little baggie and a small container of grape juice. “What can we use for glasses? I forgot those,” he said as he shrugged.

I trudged to the kitchen cupboard. The smallest things I could find were miniature glasses embossed with the name of a popular soda on them. Will that be an abomination? I laughed to myself. “Will these work?” I asked tentatively.

“Sure!” David said reassuringly, just as he would to a church member in my situation.

Finally, as we took our places on the couch, he turned to the scriptures read during the Communion service. I had heard him read them many times, but as I looked over at him, I saw him as God must see him. Faithful shepherd, loving the people of God by bringing the ordinance to those who cannot get out to receive it. Tears filled my eyes. Through this man, my husband and pastor, I felt the closeness of Jesus sitting next to me. As David ate the bread with me, joining me in my affliction, I saw a living reflection of the much greater love of my kinsman Redeemer.

When all was done in true holiness, the loving pastor and I sang a hymn and left the living room together, just as is the custom at our churches when he says, “And they sang a hymn and went out.” I cherished that the Communion was conducted in a way that reflected God’s love, compassion, acceptance, and infinite grace. After we washed the little cups out, I embraced him and thanked him for his tender ministry to the flock—even the ones scattered abroad. This was another sweet Communion I would never forget.

 

 

  1. Pseudonym.
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  3. Pseudonym.