Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Permanent and Perpetual Thanksgiving

"The Christian is a eucharistic worshiper of the saving love and mercy of the God who has accepted him. His very being is a Eucharist, a permanent and perpetual thanksgiving to God. What does Eucharist mean but thanksgiving? If Eucharist means thanksgiving, Christianity means people who are joyfully grateful people." - Brennan Manning

In the United Methodist Church, the rule is generally that communion happens on the first Sunday of the month. On this I have relied since my childhood. I was prepared for it last week when I realized it was the first of April. I scanned the Sunday bulletin only to discover that communion was given at the early service, but not the one I was attending that morning. I am sure there is a logical explanation for this and we will have our own time of communion in a week or two. On that Sunday morning, though, I was more than just a little disappointed.

Several of the students I work with were equally upset by the lack of communion that morning. I found myself strangely comforted by their disappointment. I was glad that they noticed...and missed it. It somehow seemed to say to me that they really get it.

I feel relatively certain that they weren't upset about not getting communion because it tastes so great. We use those papery wafer thingys and tiny glasses of grape juice at our church (it's a pretty big church, I don't fault them for that...). I am also pretty certain that it wasn't just because it was the first Sunday of the month and that is just when we're "supposed" to have it. Based on what they were saying, it seemed to come from a much different place.

I think these students understand communion. They want/need to be reminded what Christ accomplished for us on the cross. They want/need to be reminded that we are all in this together. They want/need to be reminded of God's goodness. They want/need to remember the new covenant. They want/need to remember and be thankful, which is what Eucharist really means.

And they seemed to really miss all of that. I found myself wishing I could bless the elements before us (we were at a baseball game...) and offer them communion right there. Then I realized that we were, in a way, experiencing the Eucharist together at that moment. It is not the same as receiving the cup and bread, but grace danced among us just the same and we experienced holy communion - community - together.

Let me close this post with a short, personal story from a couple of years ago. Some of you may have heard me tell this before, but it is worth repeating today. While in seminary I kept the most adorable bunch of kids. I spent my Mondays with them and a few others here and there. I love them very much and always had the best time with them. More often than not, they would teach me life and faith lessons without even knowing it.

One day I was walking out of the mid-week communion service and they walked up. Their dad was giving the homily and communion. The little boy was decked out in Power Ranger gear from head-to-toe. Adorable. The little girl was dressed as a princess (naturally). Without missing a beat, the little girl ran up to me and asked a question I'll not soon forget.

"Miss Julie, Miss Julie...want to go have community with me?"

I smiled and said, "Yes, of course!"

I had already taken "community" that morning, so I just watched them kneel at the altar and receive it from their Dad. It was a beautiful moment. Once finished, they got up and ran out talking about how they had "community" and making sure everyone knew it. It was priceless.

These little ones reminded me what it is all about that day. Each time I take communion, I remember this day. Communion is community. It ought to call forth thanksgiving and joy in our lives and an overwhelming desire to share it with others.