Slow Communion

By Tracy Keenan

August 22, 2018

This is about the irony of preaching about being present while time is running short. Here’s how this started: I was preaching at Gathering, where the format is much different from what I usually do. The topic was sustenance, and the passage was one of those Bread of Life passages from John 6. Jesus is speaking very physically here, very earthily about being the presence of the Holy. There was some delicious table talk, some lively music, and then I talked about eternal life as being more than linear, and how the holy connects us to the moment, to one another, to God, as well as to “forever,” if we will let it.

I had one eye on the clock, one eye on the faces, which left no eyes for my notes, and when I saw that we would barely have enough time for communion, I confess that I hurriedly wrapped things up and then there we were, sharing the bread and the cup. Hurriedly.

Each person came forward, and before I could finish the words, “This is the Bread of Life broken for you and the cup of forgiveness,” for each one, they were already gone and the next person was there.  Who could blame them? Perhaps we were all trying to move along since the next service would be starting soon, and we still had prayers and closing songs. Or perhaps the quiet intimacy of shared bread and cup feels a little awkward, a little too personal, a little raw. I realized that it was not just this particular morning that it felt rushed, but that often, people seem to hurry through this sacrament.

I promised myself that next time – no matter the format, no matter which service, but especially if it is shared through intinction – the next time I invited people to the Lord’s Supper, I would encourage us all to take our own sweet time.
Why not partake of it slowly?
Feel the bread you are tearing off the loaf in your fingers.
Listen to the words being spoken to you. To you. Don’t hurry away.
Feel the awkwardness, if that’s what’s behind the desire to hurry, and let it be a sacramental awkwardness.
Dip the bread slowly and watch how it absorbs the bruise color into its pale, spongy texture.

Let that droplet fall back into the cup and then put it in your mouth, the messy gob of it, feeding yourself the way a child in a high chair would do – no fork, no dainty napkin, but with fingertips and a small smile, perhaps, at the creatureliness of it all, the fleshiness, the earthiness, which is where, after all, we meet the Holy moment by moment if we are alive to it.

It is not only our holy food, whereby we re-enact becoming the presence of Christ in this world, but it is a way of tasting eternity, being present to the physicality and sensory experience of this world, incarnate Godness everywhere. 
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