“Time won’t leave me as I am, but time won’t take the boy out of this man”--”City of Blinding Lights”, U2

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Tacit Messages Intentionally Delivered or Not

We celebrate Holy Communion at Aldersgate on the first Sunday a month (in addition to special services throughout the year.) Last month, I did something I always feared I would do, but in nearly 12 years of ministry never had, I spilled the grape juice. The way I also assumed it would happen is by dropping the serving tray that hold the individual servings of grape juice, either by tripping or dropping it. That isn’t the way that it happened, however. Instead as I was righting the table after Communion, I was re-draping the linen back onto the elements when the linen caught the ceremonial chalice. (This is the chalice that is filled with grape juice that I lift up and present to the congregation with words, “The blood of the New Covenant.”) Over turned chalice, loud crash, grape juice everywhere, and nice service we were closing was completely invaded of any peace. I glanced around and said meekly, “Good thing our carpet is burgundy colored.”

This morning, during communion, I was uncovering the elements and looked down into the chalice (I was alert as to where it was) and I just had to smile. Instead of full chalice, there was maybe a quarter inch of grape juice in the glass. The communion stewards say it wasn’t intentional, that they ran out of juice. “It isn’t because you’re a clumsy pastor.” I’ll take their word for it but if the chalice becomes a sippy cup next month, I’ll savvy the message.

Speaking of the big chalice, sometimes I will partake of the elements using the presentation items (big chalice, big wafer that is broken). The congregation receives communion in the individual cup and small wafers. (I had a friend who called them Jesus shooters). I’ve been through the theology of the common cup and have intinction, etc., this method of communion covers the most areas that this congregation is sensitive to in terms of theology, practicality, and sanitary concerns. But I haven’t decided if my utilizing the chalice and presentation wafer as my communion elements is a good thing, because I’m not really using the common elements that the congregation uses. But if they aren’t used, then they are meaningless and probably shouldn’t be on the table. So I haven’t made up my mind about that.

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