What Did Jesus Ask?
Christian Leaders Reflect on His Questions of Faith
Thoughts on Communion Bread
In my lifetime, I’ve taken communion more times than I can remember or count. I’ve presided at communion tables with my Dad, with other colleagues, and by myself. I’ve served children, youth, and adults. I love the act of gathering around a table with a group of people who seek to live lives of justice and need a reminder that each of us is loved by God.
Throughout my ministry I have spent much time talking about communion, and you won’t be surprised to know that some of the conversation has contained complaints. Do you know what the number one complaint I hear about communion is? The Bread! The body of Christ (the church) spends too much time complaining about that which represents the body of Christ.
Here are some of the concerns I’ve heard and some tips for helping you navigate the difficulty of eating communion bread that is not your favorite.
If your church uses wafers for bread, you might have complained that they taste like Styrofoam. This leads me to wonder if all church people are eating Styrofoam or we are just imagining what Styrofoam tastes like.
I grew up with these tasty morsels. In fact, it was the tradition in my home church for each person to break the wafer in half before eating to symbolize the breaking of Christ’s body for each of us.
You have two choices with this type of bread.
FAST-The fast method is to chew it up as quickly as you can and swallow it.
SLOW-The slow method is to let it dissolve on your tongue.
If you are lucky enough to be using a wafer for intinction, take an extra second dipping the wafer into the wine/juice. Any extra liquid you can get with the wafer will help with the taste and ease of eating.
Communion breads come in all shapes, sizes, and textures. Some churches use the same bread each time while others love to mix it up.
If you get to select the size of your piece of bread, pick it in proportion to how much you enjoy the bread. If your piece is given to you, just eat it.
If you are dipping your bread into juice/wine and some of your bread drops off in the cup, do not fish it out. Whatever is floating in the cup needs to stay in the cup.
And if you know you are going to dip your bread into a cup, please take a decent sized piece of bread. If your bread is big enough then only your bread goes into the cup and not your fingers.
This writing was inspired by a statement I heard in a church. I loved what I overheard the person sitting behind me say so much that I wrote it down. Unfortunately, I do not know who said it nor even what church I was in when I heard it. Chew on these wise words from an anonymous churchgoer.
“Remember this if you do not like the communion bread. No one is asking you to make a sandwich out of it. Just take a little!”
We are invited to this table to remember. So I invite you to remember that we are all welcome at this table because it is Christ’s table. The next time you come to this table and find your favorite bread and beverage or your least favorite, remember you are loved and forgiven. It is okay to smile and think on these words-no one is asking you to make a sandwich out of it.
This is the communion table at St. Giles Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, North Carolina.
This week as I was reading Scriptures with a patient I read Psalm 20:1 from the CEB. “I pray that the Lord answers you whenever you are in trouble.” This verse has stayed with me. It has been my prayer this week for all I meet. And it is my prayer for all of you reading this. “I pray that the Lord answers you whenever you are in trouble.”
My sister was asked by her company, Allsup, to write about her experience with cancer. Here is her story which she titled, The Strength to Move Forward.
In November 2015, I went to my doctor because I just did not feel right. I had a lot of dizziness and headaches. I thought it was just that I needed new glasses. The doctor suggested that I go to the hospital and get a blood panel done. I got a call about 30 minutes after I left the office that I needed to go directly to the ER and get a blood transfusion.
My hemoglobin was a six (about half the normal amount). I was so scared. I called my husband and we went directly to the ER. They did a blood transfusion that night. I saw a gastrointestinal doctor the next day and they recommended a colonoscopy.
I had my colonoscopy on November 11, 2015. That was my diagnosis day. I had colon cancer stage 3A. I had a colon resection surgery two weeks later. They removed 12 inches of my colon. I was able to go home on Thanksgiving Day. We definitely had a lot to be thankful for.
I had a clear PET scan in early December. My doctor suggested doing preventive chemotherapy. I started 12 rounds of chemotherapy in January. I was able to return to work part time in February 2016 and it was a great feeling to be able to return to “normal.” I was able to work every other week while I finished treatment.
My chemo weeks were always a struggle. It was very challenging taking care of two small children and receiving treatments. I had four to six hours of treatment on Mondays and then had an infusion pump that I had to wear until Wednesday. It was very draining. My energy levels were very low, but with the support from family and friends I was able to move forward.
I finished my treatment on June 8, 2016. This was a very exciting day! My husband and my kids were able to go with me for my last time, and that made it all worthwhile. I had another clear scan later that month. My family and friends were my strength to keep going. I cannot thank everyone enough for being my strength during this difficult time and giving me the encouragement to move forward.
Just as I was steeping a cup of tea and preparing to sit down for a time of reading and writing my phone rang. The caller did not give me the news I wanted to hear. Instead I heard bad news that instantly annoyed me. The news I heard was not bad health news and my loved ones are all fine. It was nothing like that. It was not the news I wanted to hear, and I was annoyed. I needed my cup of tea and quiet time more than ever.
And the cup of tea, Earl Grey Creme, is not warming my soul as it normally does. I’m having trouble concentrating on my reading. My intention of writing about taking time for Sabbath took a slight change as I now had to reorient my thinking. How can I shut out the distractions of daily life so I can be fully present in Sabbath time? While each person has a different method for clearing out thoughts that distract, here is what works for me.
I write down what is distracting me. The physical work of writing it down allows me to transfer it from my brain where it is swirling around onto a piece of paper where I can pick it up later if needed or leave it there on that piece of paper.
I change my surroundings. I move outside if the weather is cooperating or move to where I have a view of the outside. I find a place to sit that is comfortable and not where I felt so distracted.
I remind myself that grace abounds. If now is not the time for quiet prayer and reflection, how else might I be present to God’s presence? Is now a good time to take a walk and envelop myself in God’s creation? Is now a good time to tackle a project that is long overdue? Is now a good time to write a letter to someone who is on my mind?
Whatever direction your Sabbath takes, I hope you’ll remember that grace abounds and you are loved more than you know.
40 Things in Lent
Each year in Lent I strive to give away 40 things. This practice combines my love of making lists with my love of giving things away. I have very few rules around what constitutes a “thing” I give away. One day I might clean out my t-shirt drawer and donate what I do not need. Another day I might sort through the pantry and collect a box of food to share with someone else. If the opportunity presents itself, I’d love to give away a lunch to someone who is hungry. Often I give away many things to the recycling containers too. And I love to surprise a friend with something I give away in a package I send.
I use Lent as a time to give away and get rid of stuff so I can start new in Easter. And in response to my statement I was challenged by this thought from my friend, Brad. “Great idea but the real transformation would be to not start new in Easter with replacing what you cleaned out!” And the challenging thoughts continued with Jim’s statement, “I wonder if that would affect what I give away.”
I am seeking transformation this Lenten season, and so I am going to give away 40 things in Lent with no plans to replace them when Easter comes. I’m going to seek to inspire my sense of giving over these next 40 days.
How are you observing this season of Lent?
Since I am not serving a church this year, it feels like the season of Lent snuck up on me. I’ve known it was coming, and yet, I no longer need to prepare for the next church season months in advance. So, Lent is here and I’m just beginning to think about how I’ll observe this season.
While wondering how best to observe this season, I read the newsletter from St. Giles Presbyterian Church. Each Sunday in Lent, they will be singing one of my favorite songs from Taize, “Wait for the Lord.” As I read these words, I realized this is exactly what I need this year. I need to pause. I need to stop. I need to wait.
Wait for the Lord, whose day is near.
Wait for the Lord: keep watch, take heart!
Every day of Lent I plan to sing this song. I will work on waiting and watching for the Lord. How will you observe this season?
You will like Arthur Pepper. He is a man trying to find his place in the world after his wife dies. He begins to question everything he thought he knew about his wife after discovering a unique piece of jewelry she owned. This discovery leads him on a quest to know his wife better. It makes him question how well he knew her. It makes him wonder why she married him. Arthur reminds us that grief and learning to live again look different for each of us. Join Arthur as he grieves the wife he lost, the changes in his life, and the chances he takes to live again.