Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Traveling Table

Tonight I got out my handy dandy communion kit, a gift from my favorite mother-in-law, and I went to visit someone in the hospital. I carefully (and prayerfully) prepared it before going, tearing the bread, real bread, not styrofoam wafers, and putting it in the little container. I counted the pieces as I tore, knowing that I was going to serve one or two, and myself, but somehow feeling like maybe six pieces would be enough. I poured the grape juice from the big bottle into the fancy little flask, wondering if the nurses might think that I was smuggling in vodka or something. I suppose I should add that the patient I was going to visit is currently in the behavioral health unit of the hospital, so the items brought in and out are under great scrutiny.

As we entered the unit, I introduced myself as a pastor to the nurse who greeted us and I asked if it would be okay for me to bring in the communion elements and serve communion to the person I came to visit. The nurse indicated that she thought it would be okay, but that she needed to ask  somebody else. From down the hall, I heard bits and pieces of the conversation and watched the person in charge (presumably) look down the hall at me. Then I heard her say something that sounded like “why not, they could probably all use it.” Well, ain’t that the truth? They could all probably use it, as could we. You, me, the nurses, the visitors, it seems that we could all use a little bread of life and cup of blessing today, and everyday really.

After chatting with the person I came to visit, serving her communion, and praying with her; we went out into the common area. I expressed to one of the other ladies sitting there that I had prayed for her at the request of the person I was speaking with before. She began to tell me about her conversation with the hospital chaplain that she had spoken to a few days back. She said that she had asked if they might be able to bring her communion, and they told her they didn’t really know the schedule for communion for the week, but they might not be able to get it to her while she was there. She seemed sad about that, so I said “I brought communion and I would be happy to serve you”. Her eyes lit up and she said “yes, but I’m not Catholic”, I replied “that’s okay, neither am I”. We left the common area to find a quiet place to talk, share communion, and pray together.

Our talk revealed that we have much in common; our denomination, faith journeys, kids, previous marriage, coming out, homeschooling…it was odd, really, how much we shared in common. We easily chatted about the day to day activity of God in our lives, and what it means to have an amazing church family. We talked about the blessings of big churches and small churches, liberal churches and conservative churches, and the way that we have seen God present and working in all of them.

While we sat chatting, a young lady kept walking by, as if she wanted to say something, but hadn’t worked up the courage yet. Finally, she asked if she could talk to me. As we sat down together, she said “What do I do, I don’t know if I tell you what’s wrong with me or what?” She shared what she felt were her demons, the things that had gripped her and wouldn’t let go. They were fears and hurts and physical pain all rolled up into something that was taking over her life. We prayed and we shared communion. Then visiting hours ended and the nurse came to escort  me out.

Six pieces of bread. Three beautiful people, each willing to let me in, to share their lives and share communion with me. A call from God to invite the people to the table and to bring the table to the people. How blessed am I?

At Table of Grace, we talk so much about our open table, the fact that anybody can come. But tonight I am reminded that the table is not just open for the sake of having people come to the table. The table is open as a means of opening our lives to one another and to God. What a beautiful, sacred, scary gift it is, the responsibility to bear one another’s burdens, to face one another’s demons, to live life together. Every week at Table of Grace, when I serve communion to the people in our congregation, I am humbled and honored to be allowed to share such a deeply personal and spiritual moment with people. Tonight, after having taken communion out, in my handy dandy communion kit, I feel all the more privileged to be able to share God with God’s people through bread and cup. Thanks be to God.