Archive for the 'Worship' Category

“Jesus Tastes Sweet Today”

That’s what our friend Jen said after communion last Sunday. The “Bread of Life” was that sweet Hawaiian bread. Thank God our worship has evolved so that we celebrate the Lord’s Supper with all shapes, sizes, and flavors of bread. It’s a welcome change from the bland diet of fish food and shot glasses I grew up on. The only redeeming quality of those tasteless cardboard wafers was that they melt in your mouth. (In God’s wisdom, we use them with ill and homebound folks for that very reason.) Sometimes, instead of wafers, the bread appeared as hard little lumps that looked and tasted like congealed glue recycled from Sunday School. The individual “shot glasses” of grape juice were labor-intensive for the communion stewards. I concluded very early that the separateness they preached contradicted the sacrament’s intended message of unity in Christ. This holy meal was served with an ancient-English ritual that drew responses ranging from “wake me when it’s over” to “English, please”, even from ordination-bound Methodist youth like me. Communion was “observed” (usually too solemn to say “celebrated”) quarterly—and then reluctantly by many.

One fine day worship began to evolve. Some churches introduced precisely-cut cubes of crust-free white bread to go with precisely-filled glasses of juice. Others made the radical move to intinction. We shared both a common loaf of bread, untidily broken in the congregation’s presence, and a common chalice. Initially this was a courageous move in the face of anti-Catholic resistance. Decades later that resistance has faded but not completely disappeared.

The common loaf opened up our options. We tried sheepherder’s bread (nice size), sourdough (tasty but embarrassingly tough to break unless it’s pre-cut), pita bread, tortillas, and more. Now the “bread of life” actually tastes good! (I don’t believe Jesus is ever pleased to be identified with tasteless pseudo-bread.) Most of us knew better than to try cornbread—tasty but a hyper-crumbly disaster! These changes helped us experience the Lord’s Supper as both a physical and spiritual event. We feel the texture of real bread—sourdough, whole grain, various flatbreads, etc. We taste the sweet Hawaiian bread, corn tortillas, whole wheat, etc. After bread-making machines became popular in the early ‘90’s, we set one up in a corner of the sanctuary one Sunday. It baked quietly before and during the early service, and again in the hour between services. The aroma blanketed the room. Everyone was hungry! The still-warm bread that day was extra-special.

“Jesus tastes sweet today.” We say that we’re “fed” and “nourished” through the bread and cup. But not all bread is equally nourishing. That Hawaiian bread tastes good, but it has relatively little nutritional value as breads go. A little sweetness (“…a sweet, sweet spirit in this place…”) may be just what we need some days. But a steady of diet of white bread isn’t healthy. It’s spiritual junk food. We need whole-grain substance. A little sourdough taste and crustiness is a welcome, healthy change. Tortillas, pita bread, and other flat breads provide basic sustenance for hundreds of millions of our fellow passengers on this planet.

A few people become ill when they eat the bread we proclaim “the bread of life”. Once a newly-appointed district superintendent brought his family to worship at the church I served. Nobody in our church knew that his daughter was one of those people. But well before I went to that church, those folks had begun providing a gluten-free option at communion. That infamous “fishfood” wafer was once again the perfect food! The district superintendent’s daughter was able to join the rest of us as we shared that holy meal. She and her family were grateful that we’d (unknowingly) provided the bread that met that little girl’s need to feel included in God’s family.

That’s the point, isn’t it? Tasty bread helps. Whatever bread we serve–even “fishfood”– is God’s instrument used to gather us who’ve been living our separate lives around the Lord’s Table, the source of true Life. Here we reaffirm God’s will for us. Here we refocus our lives on God’s vision for us, for the whole church, for the human family, for the whole Creation. In Christ God takes on all the world’s brokenness and brings healing to our lives, our churches, our families, our communities, our planet.

We haven’t fully realized the vision yet. Brokenness, suffering, and self-centered living are epidemic in our society. The seven deadly sins are alive and well! Much hard work, tough/tender love, and deep persistent prayer lie between us and the fulfillment of God’s Dream. But every Holy Meal we share brings that fulfillment nearer. We are fed and nourished with the very being of God. When we eat the bread and drink the cup, part of Christ becomes part of us—the love, the forgiving, the healing, the self-emptying servant attitude. Sometimes “Jesus tastes sweet today”. Other times the taste is sharp, or wholesome, or flat and pasty, or even bitter and hard. But always God nourishes us so we are strong enough to help build the New Creation where all are welcome, no-one is turned away, and everyone has enough.