First Taste of Grace
September 29, 2016
| By Ann Willet
God’s unconditional, unmerited love is most accessible to me at the Lord’s Table. In the simple elements of bread and cup, I am assured beyond any shadow of doubt that God is with me, that I am loved. As a minister of the church, I have the immense blessing of sharing this tangible gift with others each time we celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion. After we bless the meal, the church comes forward, one disciple at a time, to be nourished once again by God’s grace.
God knows the stories of each person who comes forward to receive. Someone walks forward with shoulders slumped, as if he is carrying a heavy burden. A couple married 60 years comes slowly to the rail, helping each other kneel. A child cups her hands to receive the bread, as if it is a precious gift. Each one who comes has their own longing for the assurance of God’s loving presence. And it is available to us over and over again, as a priceless gift.
Not long ago, a new friend worshiped at our church on a Communion Sunday. His childhood experience was in another faith, but he has felt drawn to explore Christian worship and practice. From my spot behind the rail, I could see him following along with the traditional words as the ministers shared the Communion liturgy. “On the night in which Jesus gave himself up for us,” Andy said, “he took bread.” I watched as those familiar words fell on my friend’s ears for the first time. And his face revealed their power.
As the liturgy concluded, my friend moved into the aisle to join the line. His steps were determined but cautious. He watched closely as others were served, careful to do things just right. Finally he found his place at the rail, and he knelt and lifted his head. As I approached him, with bread in hand, he beamed with joy. “This is the body of Christ, given for you.” Shoulder to shoulder with other hungry pilgrims, he had his first taste of grace.