We sat side by side during communion. Two people and one Hymnal, we clung to our tiny glasses of grape juice with one hand and tried to hold the hymnal steady between us with the other. After the first song we awkwardly lowered the Hymnal neither knowing exactly how to proceed. We had 200 pages to turn as our juice sloshed menacingly. We managed to find the right song, carefully raising the hymnal suspended between our two hands.
There was something beautiful about our bumbling. Something profoundly connective, an intimate sharing of this sacred ritual. So often in my experience communion has been a lonely act in spite of being surrounded by people who I know and love. Everyone becomes strangely solemn, stuck silently with their sins. They chew the bread and gulp the juice, and then it is over. That is that.
As Jeff and I struggled together, I was again reminded of the inter-personal nature of communion. The two of us share everyday life together. We sit in classes, pick up and drop off our kids at the same day care and share meals together. In that moment we shared our lives in a new way as we were bound together by that heavy blue hymnal and the blood of Jesus. The awkwardness of our connection reflected for me the difficult reality of doing life together. The imperfect unbalanced way in which we came to the Lord’s Table was only fitting. Still the grace of Jesus awaited us.
I think we should all have to share a Hymnal as we take communion, at least once. Sure, it may lead to a lot more spilled juice, but life together is messy. We are coming to the Lord’s Table to share a meal together. Togetherness is more than just occupying the same space and saying the same words. Togetherness is about relationship. In an American world where spirituality and the life of faith have become primarily individualistic, I believe communion is a reminder for us that in Christ we are unified both with God and with one another. So next time you take communion try sharing a Hymnal with your neighbor.