On Communion, and worthiness, and leftovers, and grief.

Some people won’t take communion. They will go to church and say all the creeds, but they won’t go to the altar rail. When asked, they say they aren’t worthy of it.

Some feel that they are too much of a sinner to take communion, even while hearing the words that Jesus erased that concept. Jesus died for their sins. That debt is paid.

Some people will come to receive communion, but will not touch the chalice. They feel that it is too holy to touch.

Strangely, it is helpful if they do touch the chalice. Being a chalice bearer is weird. The angles are strange. It is hard to serve wine to someone who is kneeling while you are standing. It is weird to have to hold onto the chalice with one hand while they drink. It is hard to make sure they get a sip of wine, while making sure that they don’t get wine spilled on them. So for them to guide the cup is really a good idea.

For those who approach but won’t touch, I wonder how they can justify eating the bread and drinking the wine. Eating and drinking is far more intimate than just touching. For those who don’t approach at all I wonder what it is about the Passion that they aren’t getting.

It is like being invited to a banquet and refusing to go in. All that work has already been done. The bill has already been paid. You are invited, and you showed up, so some part of you accepted the invitation.

To not partake of it isn’t polite, it is rude. It is the exact opposite of the intent of the sacrifice. It doesn’t make sense. But then I also think of people who say they want to go to church but don’t because they feel they aren’t good enough. This is like saying you want to go to the gym, but you aren’t in shape. You go to both places to get better. You go to both places to transform yourself. You go to both places because you think you can’t do it on your own so you go where other people are trying to figure it out too.

But I wonder how much of this feeling comes from our society’s obsession with guilt, or with making people feel like they aren’t worthy. Nothing healthy comes out of this. There is a lot of control wrapped up in this too. Some families are like this, and some institutions are like this. But the institutions are just made up of people who are operating out of their own insecurities.

Jesus wasn’t like this, but the church has become this way. I think a lot of that is because the church is full of people, and people aren’t perfect. I no longer take Communion because I no longer go to church. It isn’t because I feel unworthy but because I can no longer participate in something I feel is a sham.

I’m the kind of person who used to eat the last piece of pie in the break room. There is this strange habit of people to not eat the last piece of something. They don’t want to finish it off. They think it is rude. I feel it is rude to be wasteful. I used to look at that last piece and think “hey, thanks for saving that for me!”. But I’ve changed. I exercise now, and I care about what I eat. Every calorie needs to be helpful. Every calorie extra is that much further away from my goal. Sometimes I’ll eat a cupcake, but I think of how much exercise I have to do to burn it off. There is a connection here. I don’t go to church anymore because I don’t feel it is helpful or valuable. I feel I’m getting further away from my goal.

I can’t be part of something where people aren’t taught how to hear from God. I can’t be part of something where there is a hierarchy of lay and ordained, of us and them. I can’t be part of something where it is more social club than social outreach.

I’m not sure where I’m headed. I miss going to church. I mourn in a way. There was a lot of my identity wrapped up in going to church. But the more I read of the Gospels, the more I felt that I was being pulled away from what Jesus meant. When he said “Upon this rock I will build my church” he was talking about Peter, the person. Peter was a person, a faulty, Jesus-denying person. But people misunderstood, and made a grave for Peter, then put an altar over his grave, and put a building over that. When you take Communion in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, you are consuming something that has been consecrated over a grave. That is creepy.

That alone would stop me from taking Communion.

Tiny things

I have a fascination with tiny things. I love studying the intricacies of beads, especially Botswana agate and ocean jasper. I love coming across flowers smaller than my fingernail, especially wildflowers of any sort. I love finding bugs that have amazing detail and are just as small.

Big and flashy things seem rude to me. They call attention to themselves. They overdo it. Huge baubles and immense flowers virtually yell “Look at me!” Now I can certainly respect a peony or a hydrangea, but I’ll never plant one. Oddly, I do like crepe myrtles, but perhaps part of that is they are part tree and part flower. Perhaps partly I love them because they are uniquely Southern. But when I think about it, their flowers are big bunches of tiny flowers. It isn’t one big flower getting all the attention.

I wonder if part of my love of tiny things comes from the fact that I have very bad eyesight. I see things better if they are right up in front of my nose. Perhaps part of it comes from beading, where I’d see amazing swirls and details on the sides of beads while creating a necklace. Sadly, the details were obscured once the design was created. Only I knew about the hidden beauty.

It is amazing to me to come across a tiny insect. Sometimes I’ll find a flying bug that is smaller than a quarter of my fingernail. It is intricate and perfect. It is hard to believe that it can even exist. When I find such a bug, I think God must be showing off, saying “Look what I can do!” This creature has a brain and eyes and stomach and wings all in such a small space. Tiny flowers are amazing, but tiny bugs are magic.

Perhaps it is human nature to compare everything to ourselves. It if it that tiny, it can’t possibly matter. It can’t possibly be important. But it is, and it does. And maybe there is something in that which needs to be noticed.