In church I was probably the least prepared person there, and most likely, the one who needed to be there the most. The preacher started talking about togetherness, belonging, unity, community.
Somehow, someway, sometimes something will hit you right between the eyes and just smack across the brow. Today it smacked me. Community.
I looked around. A few rows over sat a young couple who are privately grieving a miscarriage and wondering when, if ever, will they have a child. They hurt. Only those who’ve been there know how hard it is to say goodbye before you get to say hello. Community.Up near the front right sat a lady who used to secretly drink herself into an oblivion, but now leads a recovery group to help others with addictions step beyond the past and find a way though today. Community.
The preacher begins the Lord’s Supper. While the elements are being passed, a young lady sings in a group up front. Her skin disease causes her face to be taunt, bright red and raw. Yet, she smiles a big, genuine smile and a beautiful glow of kindness, compassion and joy exudes strength and beauty from the inside out. To the far right, an intellectually challenged man sways to the music from side to side, in an awkward, forced rhythm, wanting desperately to fit in to feel and be “normal”. Community.
Near him is a big guy with a mullet and enough body piercings to set off any cheap metal detector. His skin has more tattoo ink buried in it than a Bic pen factory, yet he sits in peace and purpose, and does more single handedly to help people than an entire congregation elsewhere.
To the far left sits a man who’s been accused of things that severely damaged his reputation, and more importantly, his heart, yet it all turned out to be false. The damage, unfortunately, had already been done. Now his once rock solid faith is shaken. He questions, wonders and doubts if real love and goodness exists. Community.
The preacher says, “And He said, ‘This is My body which was broken for you, so take and eat in remembrance of Me’”.
A young high school boy sits beside his little brother and mother. He eats the bread. I feel a deep anguish, pain and agony for this boy I don’t personally know. I wonder how he will heal from ongoing physical and emotional abuse he received from his stepfather, who on the boy’s recent birthday beat him for the umpteenth time, and after hitting him with the butt of a rifle, turned it and killed himself in front of the boy. Community.
With bread between the teeth, may it be so that through His stripes we are healed, and the same for the older man sitting in the middle who was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. He quietly puts his life and business in order while holding strong to his faith and truly tasting time, sweet time. Community.
The preacher holds up a small cup of juice and says, “Drink in remembrance of Me.”
The minority college student sitting directly beside me looks as if she is homesick and in desperate need of a friend, certainly a kind word. On the next aisle over a woman sitting beside her husband awkwardly lifts the cup with her left hand because she suffers from chronic pain syndrome after her right shoulder surgery went bad. Now she spends most every moment of every day in excruciating, untreatable physical pain. Community.
Five hundred people and each one there had, has, their own issues, their own struggles, their own burdens. Why oh why does it seem like my little issues, in my little world, why do they seem so astronomically large when truly they are pale in comparison? Sure, things could be better. They always could. But then again, things could always be worse.
So when a deep, overwhelming realization of people’s pain and heartache unexpectedly smacks the brow, I object. I was fine. I didn’t ask for this. Just let me be. But it precisely cuts the heart just as assuredly as a surgeon’s scalpel creates a bypass. And maybe that’s a point of the bread and juice, community.
Maybe you can’t truly remember Him if you don’t even recognize others? Maybe you can’t remember your own blessings if you don’t see your neighbor’s leaky faucet?
I don’t know. How do you take the juice and bread outside the walls? How do you serve it? I’m not sure, but I do hope goodness and mercy follows this community all the days of their, all the days of our, life.