This past Sunday at church, I listened to a sermon about communion. I sat. I listened. I agreed, and I learned. And, at the end, I thought “Rev. Troy gave a pretty good sermon”. I’d just begun to let my mind wander when Rev. Vickey Gibbs got up to offer the invitation to communion and, in one sentence, pulled my heart out through my throat and laid it out for everyone to see. She said:
“Reverend Troy told us that a family is a group of people that get together and eat the same thing.”
Wait…what?!? I thought we were talking about communion!
As if it couldn’t get more confusing, I started to cry. I hate it when my emotions start feeling things without telling me why. I think God knew that I’d somehow missed something really important and was making sure I would not leave Resurrection MCC without receiving, in full, the special message I was meant to hear. All of Reverend Troy’s words from the sermon came rushing back, accompanied by some unpleasant and unwanted memories.
As I have mentioned in other blogs, when I was a kid, my parents would punish me by excluding me from eating with my family. I was not only denied access to the table, but I was also denied access to the food they prepared.
I was allowed to eat but was not permitted food that was considered “enjoyable”. They would laugh and talk and enjoy their meal, while I sat alone in the other room picking at the lifeless food on my plate. No other member of the family was punished in this way; however, it happened to me, all the time. Sometimes, I would walk into the kitchen and automatically get the bland allowable foods and forget that I was actually off punishment and able to get the good stuff.
Yes, I was denied flavorful or sweet foods (which, in and of itself is hurtful) but what I was also deprived of was the opportunity to commune. The invitation to interface, to be a part of, to connect with this group of people that identified themselves as my family. To be unconditionally accepted and welcomed, to be taken care of and provided for, to listen and be heard, to meet their needs and have mine met. To experience and wallow in that sense of community and togetherness that so often happens at the table.
Instead, I was punished and sent away, not worthy of partaking of the very foods that I’d helped to prepare. Over time, what became etched into my mind was the belief that I was not, and probably would never be, good enough, smart enough, quiet enough or special enough to have a permanent seat at the table. No one else had their flaws and follies collected and counted. No one else was judged and repeatedly found wanting. No one else had to measure up to that unattainable standard. And no one else was denied a seat at the table. Just me.
Now, I was beginning to understand my emotions. See, I was never denied communion in a church. I was able to walk freely up to the table and partake, whenever I wanted to. By the time I’d married my wife, we were in an affirming church, so I’d never gone through the trauma of being excluded from communion. Besides, after growing up in a Muslim household and attending a Catholic school, I’m not entirely sure I completely understood the deep symbolism of communion. I mean, I knew it represented the broken body and blood of Christ but, that day, I learned what it meant to me.
It means that I am not just welcomed, but wanted. It means that I can never lose my seat at the table, no matter what. That the food I am being offered is sweeter and better than anything on earth and I will never get short changed. It means that I have an open invitation to commune with God…anytime I want.
It’s a promise that I will be celebrated, cared for and nourished. That I am unconditionally included. It means that I belong.
So are you…
I imagine a huge table with a feast fit for kings. I quietly slip through the door pensive, frail, cold…hungry, careful not to disturb anyone. I’m not dressed for the occasion. My clothes are tattered and old, my feet are bare and my hair is a mess. The room is warm and wrought with celebration and laughter. I am too small to see the table but I can smell the decadence. I get down on all fours and try to quietly scrounge up some scraps to fill my belly all the while making sure to stay hidden. But, then, I’m spotted.
At first He scowls, though His weathered eyes still sparkle. There are morsels of food in His overly full beard and He wipes it dry before heading toward me. I slink back fearing swift punishment as He bellows “What are you doing down there?!” I cower in the corner as He approaches. He swoops me up in His arms and lets out a boisterous laugh. He holds me close kissing my neck and face. His beard is softer than silk but fluffy like a rabbits tale. I remember this embrace.
“There you are, Lynnette!!!” I smile because He knows my name and I know His. He tosses me in the air and, now, I laugh closing my eyes because, somehow, I know He will catch me. He carries me to the table and I see it. My chair. It’s made just for me. It fits me perfectly. There are warm plush robes neatly folded in my seat that are meant for me to wear. He sits me down and wraps one of my choosing around me. Then, suddenly, I feel warm comforting arms engulfing me from behind. She rocks me slowly and whispers “I love you, baby” in my ear. She smells sweet like lilies. She kisses my cheek and presses Her face against mine, my skin wet with tears. I’m not sure if it hers or mine. I feel safe in Her arms.
She fixes my hair and wipes my face. I look around and see others there wearing their own robes giggling and smiling. Some of them recognize me and we knowingly smile at each other. It’s then that I have my first chance to see the table. The food stretches from end to end. I notice there is a plate being passed around. It stops at every person and they each place a generous helping from each platter upon it. It makes it all the way around the table and by the time it gets to me, it is full and heaping. I can barely hold it.
I reach forward to place a bit of food on it but when I try to pass it on, They stop me. He gently smiles and says “That one is for you.”
That is what communion is for me.
What does communion mean to you? Please feel free to comment below or send a private message. I look forward to hearing from you. Really…
As always, thank you so much for reading.