Here are the some of the things that have jumped out at me. Perhaps sometimes soon I will sit down and write my own thoughts, but for now, here are some things that have touched my heart.
"The climax of the weekend happened on Saturday night with a communion service for all the students, volunteers, chaperones, and ministers. A Methodist pastor presided over the table, but asked me and a few of the student leaders to help distribute the bread and wine.
As I stood at the front of the rustic camp meeting roo, holding a loaf of bread in one hand and tearing off a piece at a time with the other, hundreds of people appreoaced, one at a time, with their hands held out, ready to receive.
'This is Christ's body, broken for you,' I said.
I said it over and over again, to each person who came to the table...
I said it more than three hundred times - until at last I believed it, at last I understood: it wasn't my job to do right by these kids; this wasn't about me at all. I could only proclaim the great mystery of faith - that Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again, and that somehow, some way, this is enough. This body and this blood is enough.
At Eagle Eyrie I learned why it's so important for pastors to serve communion. It's important because it steals the show. It's important because it shoves you and your ego ad your expectations out of the way so Jesus can do his thing. It reminds you that grace is as abundant as tears and faith as simple as food.
'When [Jesus] wanted fully to explain what his forthcoming death was all about,' writes New Testaments scholar N.T. Wright, 'he didn't give a theory. He didn't even give them a set of scriptural texts. He gave them a meal.'
I guess sometimes you just have to taste and see...
On the days when I am hungry - for community, for peace, for belief - I remember what it was like to feed people Jesus, and for people to feed Jesus to me. And those pieces of memory multiply, like the bread that fed the five thousand, spilling out of their baskets and filling every hollow space. Communion doesn't answer every question, nor does it keep my stomach from rumbling from time to time, but I have found that it is enough. It is always and ever enough."
"Grace cannot prevail," writes Robert Farrar Capon, "until our lifelong certainty that someone is keeping score has run out of steam and collapsed."
"'No one has been 'worthy' to receive communion,' writes Alexander Schmemann, 'no one has been prepared for it. At this point all merits, all righteousness, all devotions disappear and dissolve. Life comes again to us as a Gift, a free and divine gift...Everything is free, nothing is due and yet all is given. And, therefore, the greatest humility and obedience is to accept the fit, to say yes - in joy and gratitude.'"
And then there is chapter Twenty-one... I could quote that whole chapter! I will quote one paragraph that seems to sum up the message:
"But the gospel doesn't need a coalition devoted to keeping the wrong people out. It needs a family of sinners, saved by grace, committed to tearing down the walls, throwing open the doors and shouting, 'Welcome! There is bread and wine. Come eat with us and talk.' This isn't a kingdom for the worthy; it's a kingdom for the hungry."
By the time I made it St. Mary's, I was hungry. My church had been hurting my heart for a long time, and I had finally ceased going after two people were excommunicated. Excommunication is violent, and I don't believe that any mortal can kick someone out of Christ's church nor take away their eternal salvation.
I first went to St. Mary's for Al Anon. I was impressed by the red front doors. Red symbolizes sin in my mind, and a church that recognizes everyone for exactly what we all are: sinners, felt good. I looked up "red door church" and found that it was an Episcopal Church. As I read what the Episcopalians believed and who was included at the Lord's Table, I was impressed and decided to visit. (I have since learned why the doors are red, 'Red doors traditionally mean 'sanctuary' --the ground beyond the doors is holy, and anyone who goes through them is safe from harm. Some churches also say the red signifies the blood of Christ that has been shed so that all who come to God's care may be saved. In ancient times, no one could pursue an enemy past red doors into a church, and certainly no one could be harmed or captured inside a church.' - Episcopal Life Archives)
My first visit, I took Jared with me, and I told him that I wouldn't be taking communion - what if I did it wrong?! When the moment came for my row of parishioners to go forward to the rail, I couldn't stay seated - I needed that bread and wine. And I went up. And I don't know if I did it right, and no one told me that I did it wrong. "The Body of Christ, the bread of heaven." "The Blood of Christ, the cup of salvation." I had needed that.
Months later, as I was reading the Book of Common Prayer, I discovered prayers that individuals can say before and after Eucharist (what Episcopalians call communion):
O Almighty God, who pourest out on all who desire it the spirit of grace and of supplication: Deliver us, when we draw near to thee, from coldness of heart and wanderings of mind, that with steadfast thoughts ad kindled affections we may worship thee in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Before Receiving Communion:
Be present, be present, O Jesus, our great High Priest, as you were present with your disciples, and be known to us in the breaking of bread; who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen
After Receiving Communion:
O Lord Jesus Christ, who in a wonderful Sacrament hast left unto us a memorial of thy passion: Grant us, we beseech thee, so to venerate the sacred mysteries of thy Body and Blood, that we may ever perceive within ourselves the fruit of thy redemption; who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that the words which we have heard this day with our outward ears, may, through thy grace, be so grafted inwardly in our hearts, that they may bring forth in us the fruit of good living, to the honor and praise of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
And then, at the close of the meeting, these parting words,
"And now, Father, send us out
to do the work you have given us to do,
to love and serve you
as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.
To him, to you, and to the Holy Spirit
be honor and glory, now and forever."