The Small Wafer That Killed Me
The Christian church really has only two sacraments: Baptism, (which is the visible commitment of a life that’s being positioned to accept the grace of a loving God) and Communion, (which is a visible activity that commemorates the sacrifice that Jesus made on the Cross). To non-Christians, I’m sure that both activities are equally bizarre and cryptic; surrounded in colloquial metaphors of inner washing, blood drinking and flesh eating activity.
Throughout my entire life, both of these solemn events have been carried out with the seriousness, precision, and gravity that one may find when observing the exchanging of fuel rods in a nuclear power plant. It’s not intended to be fun and it’s only counts when the entire process is accurately finished. The event seems only valid when performed by old men with greying brows and warm eyes, who wear ill-fitting suits that smell of peppermint and cheap cologne.
When the pastor at the church where my special needs daughter lives, invited the church community to come forward for Communion on a warm Sunday night, one member of that special community shot an arm up and hollered, “Can I help!?!” as he clambered to the front to assist in the distribution of those elements. This participant carried none of the traditional trappings that I’ve come to expect over the years; he was neither greying at the temples, nor had he a suit; in fact, he wore Crocs, baggy shorts and a “Minion” tee shirt. I expected the pastor to graciously dismiss him and select someone of religious stature from the audience; someone commissioned and approved by the formal church and God [Himself]. Surely he’d choose someone who’s demonstrated decades of commitment and leadership in the church and community at large, someone with impeccable discernment and wisdom; the kind of person who quite frankly, really doesn’t exist in society but in my small mind, does. There were other pastors in the audience, numerous elders, deacons, business owners, doctors, and people with Ph.D.’s. The pastor looked right at this eager, Minion tee-shit clad believer and without batting an eye, accepted his offer of help. My heart stopped. The formal church stopped. Time stopped. God was about to be mocked and rarely does a crowd live through such a debacle; we were on the verge of being turned into pillars of salt.
He stumbled through the plastic and chrome chairs till he got to the front of the sanctuary; I don’t believe his eyes ever came off the pastor-turned-target as he managed that entire journey. His heart was full, his direction set, and his purpose clear. Quietly, the pastor explained to him how distributing the sacraments would be done; who’d say what, when they’d say it, and what to expect in return. He gently outlined this knowing that what was being received on the other end was likely a hundred times greater and more complicated than the simple directions he was giving so to be sure, he carefully, slowly, and gently said them again. Tactically, all he was doing was holding a small basket of rice-wafers as people walked past and took (hopefully) only one, out. Jesus used bread when he originally conducted the “first” of such events; breaking it and giving a chunk to each of his followers that were in the room with him that night, but in those days gluten allergies and Community Health guidelines were not quite the issue they are today. Each person would take a wafer, the helper would say: “this is Christ’s body, broken for you”, and the person taking the wafer would utter something profound and Godly in response as they moved on towards that next basket which held (of all things) a single grape.
I stood in the long line of teetering and wobbling participants. Some in wheel chairs, some using canes, some being guided there, some screaming “buh-bye!” the whole way. I watched as the helper did his best to stay on script and watched as the pastor balanced his intensity between prayerfully distributing the grapes, and parentally guiding the helper back on-topic. My turn came. The helper looked at me through his thick and messy glasses and those piercing blue eyes immediately burned out of my soul everything I’d ever come to expect about this Communion that’s formally known as “The Lord’s Supper”. Gone were the old men of stature. Gone were the solemn expectations and gravity. Gone were the teary-eyed old ladies who would cry when the organ played: “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” Gone was the David who thought that Jesus preferred and took the greatest delight in spiritual maturity. All of that replaced by a guy in a Minion tee shirt.
I thanked the helper and told him how moved and honored I was to be served Communion by him. He smiled and distributed the wafer to my daughter Bethany; (another resident who’d have never partaken of this sacrament in the formal church because there’s no way for her to publicly declare her faith in Jesus and the notion of “work-arounds” for such is a closely held mystery). Then, once finished with his formal chores, he assured me of the quality of what he was distributing. He clued me into another small secret that was held within this small wafer. “This is really good stuff”, he said. “This will help Bethany, and she’ll be cured of her condition by Tuesday so plan on doing something fun on Wednesday like going to a theme park or something”…