Friday, May 8, 2015

Rev. Chipmunk Serves Communion

Early on in my pastoring, I encountered a conundrum every time I walked with my community through the Lord's Supper.

We'd pray, and we'd bless, and I'd say the words of institution over the bread.  "This is my body, broken for you," I'd intone, and then the little Christ-croutons would be shared.  When all was done, I'd raise my little piece of the shared symbolic meal.  "This is the bread of life," I'd say.  And then, we'd all eat.

But bread, well, bread sometimes makes it hard to talk.  Particularly if it's chewy.  The starch can hang in your throat and stifle the next words you're called to solemnly intone.  

"And after the...gluk...meal...urk...he...urk...excuse me..."

I had this happen a couple of times, and it did not do wonders for my solemn intoning.

I tried waiting, gathering the saliva carefully so that I could swallow, but it felt slow.  Off.  Like it impeded the moment, detracting from my role in the sacred rhythm of the sharing.

And so, years ago, I found a solution.  Not elegant, but functional.  The little sliver of bread enters my mouth, and a chipmunk with a sacred seed, or a good ol' boy with his holy's tucked in, right there between the gum and the cheek.

The bread is there, in my mouth, as I speak the words over the cup, invoking our memory of his life and self-sacrifice.  As the elders who are serving the meal with me distribute the little plastic shots of Jesus, I tease it out, slowly chew, and swallow.

When I first started doing this, I wondered about whether my approach messed with the whole "eating this together" thing.  We are meant to be sharing the elements as one, after all.   Communing.  I mean, that's the idea, right?

But then again, I thought, well, I've *started* the process.  The Lord's Supper wasn't meant to be an exercise in synchronized digestion.  It is an experience of the Spirit, feeding the wholeness of who we are, both body and psyche.

The flavor of the bread suffuses my mouth, just as it does with everyone in the room.  The thoughts of what that means and why that's significant are just as present in my soul.

And it works.

Which, for all matters of theology and liturgy, matters more than how silly we might feel on occasion.