the unlikely bread of heaven

bread and wine

i’ve been attending the episcopal church down the street from my apartment.

i am learning so much from this well-worn, liturgical, mainline denomination.

inclusivity. the three-legged stool. the great big arms of god.

but my favorite part?

communion.

now, the eucharist isn’t new to me. but the episcopal church practices this holy sacrament every week.

and i cry

every.
stinking.
time.

we follow the people in the pews in front of us to the altar. we kneel next to our neighbors.

we clasp our hands, bow our heads. some make the sign of the cross before the priest or presiding bishop or rector comes around. he or she places a piece of bread in our open palms and whispers:

“the body of christ, the bread of heaven.”

then, a woman (gasp) comes around to serve the wine. we drink from the same cup after she whispers:

“the blood of christ, the cup of salvation.”

men and women. young and old. gay and straight. black and white. divorced and married.

we eat the same broken bread; we drink from the same bitter wine.

we come to the table to be nourished. to fill our bellies with the life and grace and love and mercy found at the cross.

not one is excluded from this holy sacrament, meal, feast.

and i cry.

every.
stinking.
time.

at the couple who just celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary. they wobble their way to the altar, walkers in tow, but choose not to kneel. i imagine it may be too hard to get back up these days.

at the older gentleman who seems to hustle his way to the front, like a wide-eyed child longing to scoop the first taste of frosting.

at the ones who can’t or won’t make eye contact around the altar. who’s hushed “amen’s” speak novels about their receipt of grace. how i long to know their stories.

my eyes well and spill over as i’m handed the body and and drink the blood.

because:

we remember his death,
we proclaim his resurrection,
we await his coming in glory.

we.

all are welcome around the table.

all are invited to the feast.

in this place, we draw circles, not lines.

but that wasn’t the only experience of communion i witnessed this particular sunday.

i popped over to in-and-out after church (because when you live without an accessible in-and-out for 25 years, you don’t waste a meal). a 20-something african-american man was standing outside. carrying everything he owns in an army green duffle.

i watched as he stammered polite requests to the passerbyers.

“do you have spare change?”

“just a few dollars?”

“anything would help.”

i shook my head when he asked. i had no cash on me, but i offered him a meal. i asked what he liked.

“just the cheapest burger will do. thank you.”

all are welcome around the table.

all are invited to the feast.

not one is excluded from this holy sacrament, meal, feast.

and the tears welled again.

because sometimes the bread of heaven looks like a double-double with grilled onions and fries.


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3 comments

  1. Lisa fort says:

    Jessica Taylor Richie! It’s Lisa fort! I’ve been reading your weekly notes and I’m so encouraged so keep up the love and words of wisdom! Love you!

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