I mentioned I became an elder at my church in January.
It was an incredibly emotional journey for me. When asked in the fall to serve, I declined initially. For assorted reasons, among them my view of church leadership from my family’s past service and my own struggles and failings along this faith journey.
As I spent some time wrestling with God over the decision, I ultimately, haltingly, got to a yes.
If you are not a big fan of the church or organized religion, I get that. Especially if you’re in my generation when the church did some pretty judgmental things that looked very little like what I imagine Jesus looks like.
As a result, in the times I’d give God a chance to use me, it typically happened outside the walls of the church. In my neighborhood. At my workplace. With other working moms.
So the idea of serving “inside” the church didn’t line up with my own preconceived judgments against the institution of church (not my particular church which I adore).
In talking with my church leadership, it seemed as though there was a way for me to serve (with all my failings) and still focus on loving people outside the walls of the church.
I would try it. But I warned them. I might not cut it. (People may think that’s tongue in cheek. It’s not. I’m still on this ride with fear and trembling…)
All of that is prologue for what happened the first Sunday of March.
One of the duties of a church elder at Grace (my church) is to serve communion.
Okay, if you think you might not be worthy to become a church elder, then you REALLY don’t think you’re worthy to serve communion.
You are ushering others into a deeply meaningful time of sacrament.
Communion is a powerful time for me. It’s the time when I have to clear up the mistakes I’ve made with God and set things right when I’ve wandered away.
I know people of faith do communion differently, but in my tradition, children take communion after they have made a personal choice to accept Jesus as their Savior. Each of my kids, at different times, have made that choice so we have had lots of conversations about what communion means and how we should pray beforehand to prepare ourselves for this sacrament.
On this weekend, I had two of the three kids while Bray was at the ranch with the third.
We arrived at church early, and they took their seat in the first row of the section where I would serve. We prayed, as I had been doing all morning long, and I went to check in.
In our church, elders go two-by-two to different areas of the sanctuary. One holds a loaf of broken bread and the other holds the large ceramic goblet of “wine” (juice as it were for us). People come to one of the serving areas, break off a piece of bread and dip it in the cup. As each person tears a piece of bread, the server says, The body of Christ, broken for you. And as they dip it in the cup, the server says, The blood of Christ, shed for you.
I was to serve the bread.
After I received my information that week, those words hung over everything I did: The body of Christ, broken for you.
I’d heard it dozens of times.
But somehow, this time, it sat on me like a heavy weight.
My own body’s rebellion the prior two weeks paled as I imagined what actual suffering must have looked and felt like as he was pierced and crushed for us.
The sermon ended. I walked to the altar to collect my bread and returned to my place in the room. A line began to form.
The first two people I had the honor to serve were my own two kids. I could barely choke out the words. How on earth would I get through everyone? Yet to lean over and whisper to them of the sacrifice made on our behalf was overwhelming and sacred.
Those I served differed. Some took it as a typical sacrament, quickly moving through the line to let others come. Others paused, looking me right in the eye, waiting for the words to come. Young and old. Short and tall. I met each one’s gaze and tried to hold it together.
Then, others still, responded. The first man who replied, And for you too, nearly did me in. I realize this is a routine in some churches, but I hadn’t experienced a response. Hearing the words repeated back to me, as I served, almost sent me to my knees. Knowing that would make serving quite challenging, I stiffened my wobbly knees.
The body was broken, so we could be whole.
Yet, oh too often in this sifting season, I’ve seen the larger “body” of Christians more and more broken. Divided. Segmented. Fighting.
His brokenness wasn’t given to bring more brokenness. He was broken to bring us peace (the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, Isaiah 53).
It’s nearly Easter. I won’t see it the same this year. I’ll hear the body of Christ, broken for you, and remember that the least we can do in return is act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6)