Last Sunday, my wife and her newly-formed liturgical dance troupe danced in a Methodist church in Bellevue—the church where one of the women in her troupe is an associate pastor. The dance was great. Every time I see my wife dance, I am struck by the palpable grace coming from her. It's an experience that merges the two senses of the word "grace" for me.
Then came Communion. Oh. Problem. See, we Methodists often take Communion by intinction, which is to say taking a chunk of bread and dipping it into the cup (of grape juice), then partaking of the soggy body/blood combination. Which leaves me stuck. I can't eat the bread, obviously, so no dipping for me. In theory, I could just drink from the cup—except that, unless I'm the first person up there, there's an abundance of gluten-laden crumbs swimming around in the cup. So no Communion for me.
This made me very upset at first, as it had at the Renton UCC/Disciples church a couple weeks ago. And particularly since, as we went into the Great Thanksgiving, I turned to my wife and whispered, "Oh yeah, I am a Methodist!" The familiarity of the ritual was comforting. But then to be cut off from participation in it felt especially painful. So I sat there feeling sorry for myself yet again.
Then that grace thing happened. Our son had chosen a seat right up front and on the left side of the sanctuary. So we were right by the associate pastor, Crystal, as she was serving people on our side. I was watching her for a while, how she touched everyone who came up—laying her hand on the heads of children or gently touching the arms of adults—and called most everyone by name and was really present with them, serving them. And suddenly I was able to let go of my self-pity and accept the grace that God was offering me through the sacrament—without physically participating in the sacrament. We Methodists talk about sacraments (Communion and baptism) as means of grace, and I have always cherished the idea that God's grace can come to me through the bread and cup without any particular openness on my part, that I don't need to get myself in the right frame of mind or somehow make Communion a special experience for myself—God's grace flows through the sacrament whatever I do and whatever state I'm in. So this was the first time I had experienced that as a witness to the sacrament rather than a real participant.
She carries a pearl
In perfect condition
What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things
Grace finds beauty
Check out "Grace" performed by U2 and by Nichole Nordeman .
Monday, September 13, 2004
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