I participated in the Lord’s Supper for the first time when I was six at a Baptist church in Vernon, Texas. The crackers were super tiny. The juice was barely enough to wash down that tiny cracker. All I knew was the Lord’s Supper was a time of reverence, but for me it was a time of anxiety. I was always afraid I’d eat the elements before it was time to do so. No one wants to dive into the tiny cracker meal before the preacher tells you its ok.
I’ve always struggled with communion. It’s been explained to me for most of my life, but I still don’t quite get it.
I feel similarly to the crowd in John 6 to whom Jesus said, “Eat my body”
It seems like a good point in the conversation to walk away. Or at least a good time during the service to go to the bathroom.
Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples the night before he was crucified, ushering in the new covenant through his blood. Breaking and sharing bread and wine was a sign of God’s presence and mercy, commemorating and remembering the rescuing, redemptive movement of God.
I get it, but I still don’t get it.
I spent most of yesterday in the Walt Disney Pavilion at Florida Hospital with a group from the Mosaic community. The location was over-the-top Disney—filled with off-duty princesses resting on what looked like the set from The Lion King. Dozens of people were gathered to pray for their friends Kevin and Lindsey and their newborn baby Dasah.
Dasah’s birth was a glimpse of miraculous grace. She was born without a skull—nothing to protect her brain and ultimately, no way to sustain her life. Her brave mother delivered her in the morning, knowing that once Dasah was outside of her body, her sweet baby girl would have little time left on this earth.
Dasah’s parents and her community have done everything to celebrate the life that God created. When Dasah was two hours old, those gathered in the waiting room sang happy birthday and then passed out her birthday cake.
When I walked in a few minutes after the birthday party, the waiting room looked like a youth group lock-in. Blankets, cups of coffee, and groups of two or three huddled together. And there were dozens of pink plates littering the floor, holding the remains of half-eaten pieces of birthday cake.
My friend jumped up when she saw me, “Did you get your cake?!”
I laughed, thinking of how little cake seemed to matter at a time when a baby girl was fighting for every minute of life.
“Oh you have to have some cake!” she insisted, returning with a less than appetizing sight. She had pushed a few half eaten pieces of cake together that she had found on various abandoned plates. It wasn’t pretty, especially when I could see the spots where others had already licked off the frosting.
I might normally say no to a piece of mostly-eaten, leftover cake from the floor, but the peer pressure was intense.
As I looked at the community of Mosaic huddled around bibles and pieces of hope, I realized that this birthday cake was more than just a celebration of Dasah’s life. It was a song of praise for who God is. It was a way to recognize the presence of God and the faithful work of God.
This birthday cake was communion—it was the sacred meal shared among the people of God. And this was a perfect time to eat that cake.
This was the bread broken and offered to God’s people gathered in the hospital waiting room. It was the sign of celebration and the sign of longing. It gave voice to gratitude and also gave voice to desperation.
“Do this in remembrance of me.”
And he broke the bread and gave it to the disciples, “Take and eat.”
The disciples ate, participating in the work of Christ, remembering the life of Christ, and participating in his suffering. And Jesus called them to take it together—not in isolation, but sharing the meal in thanksgiving.
And as I ate the bite of Dasah’s birthday cake handed to me, communion made sense for the first time in my life. I was sharing this meal with this community in remembrance of God.
This birthday cake was Christ’s body, offering hope and a picture of life pushing through death. But it was also an invitation into suffering.
“Every time you eat of the bread or drink of the cup, you broadcast the death of Jesus until he comes again,” Paul said.
We are people who celebrate, but we are people who know the darkness is still real. We walk in light, but we know the darkness has not yet been obliterated. We are able to enter into this life with Jesus, but we know we will not fully know life on this side of heaven.
When we take communion, we as the Body remember that God is near. We gather to remember God’s willingness to care for and be present to his people.
We are still broken and incomplete and desperate for Jesus, and so we wait. And sometimes while we wait, we eat birthday cake.