“You have people in your congregation who are at A,” the pastor explained as he drew a line graph littered with letters. “Others are at B. Others are at K. The beautiful thing…is when everybody is met where they are and are invited to the next place.”
I was reminded of his words this past Sunday when two little girls walked into the sanctuary and asked if we were having youth group. I’ve gotten to know them in the past two years through some of our church events (like our annual VBS and when we rented out the local water park for a free community event) and because one of them lives just down the street from me. They are sweet, sweet girls who are helpful, kind, and entrepreneurial (One of them walked down to the Dollar General with another friend to purchase lemonade mix, then they set up a lemonade stand in our church parking lot and made enough money to buy a slip-n-slide…all by themselves! They are 8 years old! Amazing.)
They don’t have any church background, however. They don’t know the difference between VBS and Sunday morning worship. They don’t know the norms and taboos, like how we’re not supposed to run around the balcony during worship services or talk and laugh during quiet prayer time. But still they came, all by themselves, and stayed even though youth group wasn’t in the morning.
As I watched them, I thought they were at A. They don’t really know anything about “church” or God or what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Thankfully, they do seem to know that this congregation of Jesus followers is a safe place for them, a place and people where they are welcomed and loved. I hope they are experiencing the fuller meaning of sanctuary in this place. (And, through their lives, I hope we learn that we aren’t as far along as we like to think; that maybe we are the ones at A and maybe we are being invited – through the girls’ examples – to another level of understanding who God is and the lives God calls us to live…but that’s another post.)
Graciously, one of our loving women made her way up the stairs during the service to help teach them about “church.” She met them where they were and invited them to know more. At one point she asked them, “Do you want to have communion?”
“What’s communion?” they asked.
What is communion? Now there’s a great question.
At its best, I hope communion is more than just a “meal” of broken bread paired with teeny-tiny plastic cups of grape juice. At its best, I hope communion is the very embodiment of Jesus the Christ – where all persons, A-Z, are invited to confess that they don’t have it all together, that they are in need, and that they need help. Where all are invited to a table with the open arms of forgiveness and friendship. Where anger gives way to forgiveness, where sorrow is pointed toward hope, where guilt gives way to grace. At its best, I hope communion is the meal that feeds our needs with Jesus, in whom our restless souls find the rest they so deeply long for. And then, at its best, I hope communion sends us forth as witnesses to the Love we experience in the meal. That those who partook of the bread and juice are, for the world, the Body of Christ redeemed by His blood. A people who extend to others the forgiveness, friendship, hope, and grace they first received themselves.
I hope that’s the kind of communion the girls were offered on Sunday. Because that’s the kind of communion they reminded me that I need.