Warning: if Eucharist / Lord’s Supper / Mass / Communion is something you hold very special and sacred you may want to ignore this bloggage as it contains innocent yet childish irreverence on that theme.
As far back as I can remember I have attended Baptist Churches. First of all because my parents took me, and then later because I choose to. This means that certain things have always been seen through the lens of ‘baptist’. Believer’s Baptism is the obvious example, in contrast to other types of baptism. Another is the way of serving communion…
The first church I attended would serve communion in little individual cups which had little lids on them, on top of which little cubes of bread were placed. As far as I knew this was what every church did. So I was fascinated when I attended my Grandparents’ church, a Brethren Assembly, where communion was very different. The bread was one loaf from which people broke off a chunk as they were served, and they had chalices that were filled from a decanter at the front and each person drank as the chalice was passed to them.
My sister and I discussed this afterwards and we wondered about what would happen if a greedy man attended. So we developed a game at tea time of ‘Dawlish* and the Greedy Man’. We would break off a small piece of bread from our bread and butter and eat it, keeping going until one of us said, “Dawlish and the Greedy Man” at which point we had to cram as much bread into our mouth as possible. It was the same with our drink (although we kept to our own Mr Man mugs). Sip, sip, sip, sip, “Dawlish and the Greedy Man!” Slurp.
It seems that there has been a fateful attraction between me and communion. The first time I had ever seen communion in a church I was watching intently and saw the minister lift up the loaf as he said, “This is my body, broken for you…” As he picked it up I could see that it had been cut about half-way through and turned to my mother with a loud whisper, “Mum, he’s cheating: it’s already cut!” I think that ruined the moment for a lot of people given the sniggers and suppressed giggles.
And so for the rest of my life there has been this fateful attraction.
As a student I had some problems with communion in different churches. In one I thought that the cubes of bread were all under a doily and picked it up only to discover that the bread was between two doilies and I scattered it liberally across the table and the floor. On another occasion I was confronted with a crusty wholemeal loaf that had not been pre-cut at all. I said the words through gritted teeth as I tried to tear the bread. Sally was sitting a long way back and could see the whites of my knuckles as I wrestled with the loaf.
The worst moment was in my first church when I discovered that the middle of the loaf was missing altogether and all I had were some crusts that had been pushed together. A young lad had been roaming the church beforehand and had got hungry… then he tried to cover his tracks. I carried on as well as I could and sent the crusts out to the congregation while my mind tried to work out what had happened. I only found out afterwards.
I confided in some friends in the church and we had a chuckle. The next time I served communion I made the mistake of catching the eye of one of them as I picked up the loaf and had to suppress a smile that would have erupted into laughter.
I have also on one occasion said, “In the same way after cuppa…”
If I did not know better I would say that God is getting his own back for the irreverence of ‘Dawlish and the Greedy Man’ and my loud whisper about the status of the bread. But God is not like that. He is gracious, forgiving, generous, kind, merciful. He does not ‘get his own back’. Rather he offers his own son to provide us with a fresh start.
That does not mean, however, that he did not find my difficulties funny. That does not mean that he did not see the irony of the situation. I believe he takes me far more seriously than I take myself, and at the same time sees far more humour in our life than we could ever imagine. There’s a set of images produced by USPG and CMS called ‘The Christ We Share’ which are pictures and sculptures of Jesus from across the world and different eras. It’s an amazing resource to contemplate. But the image that I love most is the one here: Jesus laughing. I imagine him having a laugh with his friends, telling jokes, enjoying funny stories. I also imagine him looking me in the same way that parents of toddlers do – enjoying their attempts at emulating their parents but also finding them very funny.
Be blessed, be a blessing.
*Where my Grandparents attended church