I can pinpoint my first memory of communion to a Sunday one golden Minnesota summer. I had turned seven that spring and was approaching second grade. My family often went to Minnesota for the summer. We’d bounce around a few different churches as quasi-attendees from May to August.
On this particular Sunday, we attended a church in a borrowed college auditorium. Shortly into the sermon, my mom ducked out a side door with my youngest sister, who’d started to fuss. When ushers began to pass communion, I thought I’d be helpful by grabbing juice and crackers to save for my mom after service. Somehow, I managed to keep the juice unspilled and cracker intact. After the service, I walked out the door, scanned the crowd for my mom and sister, and wove my way to their corner. By now, I felt silly for saving communion without knowing if my mom wanted it, but because I was seven years old, I nudged my glasses up the bridge of my nose and presented my offering. “I saved a snack for you, Mom.” She responded gracefully. She thanked me for the gesture and gave me a mini-lesson on communion’s deeper significance. Communion, I began to learn, is first about Christ instead of us.
I’ve heard it said before that children are tiny theologians, which is probably true in most cases, but at that point I just wanted a snack. Yet, that communion has stayed with me. I am still learning to lay down the emptiness of helping my way to love and the disappointing pride of helping myself.
He delights to help us.
Years have passed since I saved communion as a snack, but the tradition continues to remind me of lack and abundance, fractures and repair. At church, when we take communion—“This is Christ’s body, broken for you. This is Christ’s blood, shed for you”—we do not proclaim how we’ve helped ourselves to salvation or declare our achieved grace. No announcement of merited love. Neither do we proclaim that we have helped another to salvation or declare we poured out grace to them. We proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. The source of beauty in this proclamation is God, who helped us when we did not deserve it and when we could not earn it.
This Easter was different for all of us, and for me, it was the first holiday I spent alone. With my pastor on my laptop screen, I poured a glass of Target’s finest wine and set out a breakfast roll. Still in remembrance of him, the one who never leaves us. In that communion, I remembered my costly sin, and I thanked my heavenly father. I’m now a co-heir with Christ. As I tipped wine, sweet and dry, down my throat, I remembered God’s provision and grace, even now. When I swallowed bread, I remembered that God has given me everything I need for life and godliness. Do this in remembrance of me.
He is setting the banquet table, preparing the feast, making the way. We get to find our place at the table, invite others to join, and walk in obedience. Communion is communal. And even as I sat alone, I remembered that he’s given us each other.
As I remember God more and more—his faithfulness and power and the boundaries he gives—the more hope begins to grow. We remember Christ and harmonize with the psalmist: Lord, remember me. In communion and in relationship, God restores us. He delights to help and does not humiliate our dependence.
Cover image by Jon Tyson.