The celebration of The Lord’s Supper has, historically, been the subject of much discussion and debate. Many trees, and much ink has been consumed as people have tried to get their heads around this mysterious remembrance of the life and death of Jesus.
Academic theologians debate the exact nature of the celebration (symbolic, representative, actual?) and of the elements (consubstantiation, transubstantiation, or something else?). Practical theologians work on related issues such as: who should partake of the elements, how often should we observe, and what should we do with the wine and bread which is left over?
But here are some of the challenges which real-world theologians face. One of us goes to the grocers on Sunday morning and finds only gargantuan or teeny-tiny loaves to choose from. The choice is obvious, so we end up with a kind of oversized dinner roll, which when dramatically raised and broken in two is almost completely hidden by the fingers of the officiant. That same officiant (me) deals with private anxiety because he’s installed an exterior door several days earlier, and so has orange foam permanently adhered to the outside of his right (serving) hand. It looks like he’s either wiped his nose, or contracted some dread skin condition. Should I try to serve with my left hand, so that I might hide my shame?
In the end, I decided to ignore my orange fingers, and make the best of the tiny loaf. So, as each person came forward for their sliver of bread (not exactly the metaphor for grace which we were going for…), they got less and less. To make matters worse, I found out to my horror that one person actually got a piece of the paper napkin which is used to hold the bread. I must have torn it off when I was getting to the end of the loaf. It might have looked like they were choking on the communion bread, but actually– well, come to think of it, they were.
So sometimes, you see, the Celebration of The Eucharist is a bit of a debacle. Which is a shame, in some sense. But in anther sense, it is only right. For our lives are messy at best, and Jesus came to this world to enter into that mess and he continues to give of himself, day after day. He gives love in response to hate, grace in response to greed, interest in response to indifference. Whether or not we conduct our lives with all of the dignity and decorum which we ought.
This is my body,
this is my my blood.
They are given for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.