Thank You, Jesus
November 28, 2018
By Rev. Ann Willet
I saw her enter through the back door just after the service began. She found a seat in the corner, away from any other worshippers. As she removed her coat and scarf, she seemed to be shedding the weight of the world.
She stood when we stood, but didn’t take a hymnal to sing. She sat attentively during the sermon. And as I walked behind the table, she leaned forward slightly, as if waiting for the invitation. “This is not our table. This is the Lord’s Table. All are welcome to receive the Lord’s Supper, whether you are a member of this church or any church. We offer it today out of obedience to Christ, and in the hope that all will experience his grace in the simple elements of bread and juice.” These were the words she was waiting for.
The United Methodist tradition welcomes all to receive Holy Communion, in which we remember and give thanks for Christ’s loving sacrifice for the world. We do not take on the responsibility of deciding who deserves to receive, or who has had enough training so as to fully understand its meaning. As we bless and share the holy meal, we believe that the Holy Spirit meets each worshiper where they are. At the communion rail, all the categories that humankind has created fall away. All are welcome. All means all.
Holy Communion in the United Methodist tradition involves our movement toward God, so that God can move in us. Rather than pass the communion elements through the pews, as is common in some faith traditions, we physically move toward the table, as an act of communal love, in acknowledgment that each person is in equal need of God’s grace. Some coming forward are too young to hold a cup without help. Some can no longer kneel at the rail. Some have dietary restrictions that affect their ability to receive. And out of obedience to Christ, we serve each one. No one who comes to receive is turned away hungry. As the Body of Christ, the church must do all we can to offer God’s grace so that all may receive. In this act of hospitality, we are obedient to Jesus’ message: Do this in remembrance of me.
I didn’t make it to the woman before she left the sanctuary that day. I don’t know her name or her story. But I believe that the Holy Spirit guided her to worship, and I met her at the communion rail. As I offered her a morsel of bread, her well-worn hands revealed a life of physical labor. As I looked into her tear-filled eyes, I knew that she was starving for this moment of God’s grace. And after she received her small cup of juice, she simply said, “Thank you, Jesus.”