I held the plastic cup of juice in one hand, a tiny square cracker in the other. In my chair, I tried to focus my thoughts on God and let all else fall away. This symbolic act of taking communion was designed to bring me closer to the Lord. Head bowed, it was just me and Jesus. Until I realized it wasn’t…
Countless throngs of angels stand before you to serve you night and day; and, beholding the glory of your presence, they offer you unceasing praise. Joining with them, and giving voice to every creature under heaven, we acclaim you, and glorify your Name…
I came of age in my faith in a tradition that didn’t place a strong emphasis on what is sometimes called The Lord’s Supper, Communion, or the Eucharist. A few times a year we would come to a service to find trays of individual juice and wafers had been placed around the room. Like the other elements of the Baptist worship I experienced, it was an emphasis on each of us connecting with the Lord, individually. Communion was largely seen as a symbol of remembrance, reminding us of the sacrifice Jesus made for each of us and allowing us an opportunity to evaluate our personal relationship with God.
In your mercy you came to our help, so that in seeking you we might find you. Again and again, you called us into covenant with you, and through the prophets you taught us to hope for salvation…
I hold out my hands in expectation, waiting alongside others. I smile at the little girl to my right, excitedly squirming as her mom whispers instructions in her ear. The person kneeling to my left brushes against me as he makes the sign of the cross and places his elbow close to mine on the rail. I look around the circle at members of my community. I’ve only been a member of this Episcopal parish for a year, so I’m still getting to know everyone. But the Priest knows every name. I listen as she makes her way around to me, stopping to look each person in the eye.
After she hands a piece of bread to each member of the family to my right, she reaches back to the silver plate stacked with bread and picks up another piece. She winks and smiles as she places it in my palm. “Nicole, the body of Christ, the bread of heaven,” she says. Here I receive communion; I don’t take it. It is given to me, a gift each week—the centerpiece of our worship. The chalice bearer follows behind her, wipes the edge of the cup, and turns it before offering it to my upturned face. Slowly, the wine crosses my lips as he reminds me this is the blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.
To fulfill your purpose, he gave himself up to death; and, rising from the grave, destroyed death, and made the whole creation new. And, that we might live no longer for ourselves, but for him who died and rose for us, he sent the Holy Spirit, his own first gift for those who believe, to complete his work in the world, and to bring to fulfillment the sanctification of all…
I needed someone to stand before me and remind me Jesus was present. I needed someone to set a place at the table for me, to hold out the cup to my thirsty lips.
When I found myself no longer able to pray, in the throes of depression and anxiety, I reached out to friends around the world. They promised to pray the words I couldn’t, to carry me through my wilderness. I lived 8,000 miles from home, in South Asia, when I realized how desperately I needed a community around me. Just me and Jesus weren’t enough; we were never meant to be.
In a time when I felt more alone than ever, I discovered the gift the Body of Christ can be. It was the prayers of friends, the wisdom of a Spiritual Director, and the listening ear of a counselor who pulled me from the abyss. I needed someone to stand before me and remind me Jesus was present. I needed someone to set a place at the table for me, to hold out the cup to my thirsty lips.
After supper he took the cup of wine; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you…
The Eucharist isn’t only a remembrance of the Last Supper when Jesus said the words we hear repeated each week. It is meant to be a foretaste of the Great Banquet that is to come. Jesus reminds us that one day he will eat the Passover again with us when it “finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” The disciples would have understood Jesus’ reference to a Great Feast to come, a time when “the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples.” Jesus often spoke to his followers about preparing for the feast that is to come. I spent so much of my life thinking this meant preparing myself to be present at the feast—personal reflection, personal growth, and personal worship.
A feast is not to be eaten alone. A banquet table is not set for one.
Grant that all who share this bread and cup may become one body and one spirit, a living sacrifice in Christ, to the praise of your Name…
Here, among family, we reach out for the living water that promises to keep us forever satiated. We hold it out to each other. We offer up another helping every week.
I already knew I was part of a family made up of people from all over the world. My time living in the Middle East and South Asia taught me that the Body of Christ is bigger than I had ever imagined and ignited a fire in me to see myself as part of the whole. When we moved back to the U.S. from Bangladesh, I needed to situate myself in a congregation that would remind me of this communal nature of faith. That’s when the doors of the Episcopal church swung open for me, and I found my way to the banquet table.
As the words out of the Book of Common Prayer are read every week the language of the Eucharist roots it’s way into my soul. They’ve become the words of blessing at the table, the invitation to the feast I long for each Sunday. They anchor me not only to the people who kneel next to me and whom I smile at across the altar as we partake in the bread and wine together. They teach me that I am part of a family that stretches across time as well as place. These are the same words of thanksgiving that millions before me have said and who now eat and drink in the physical presence of the Lord who is only mysteriously present in the elements of this feast.
And grant that we may find our inheritance with all the saints who have found favor with you in ages past. We praise you in union with them…
The first week I served as a Eucharistic Minister and I carried the chalice toward waiting hands, my fingers trembled. My nervousness spoke to the weight of the task, the utter holiness of offering the presence of the Lord to another person. My eyes met those of a friend across the rail, who I had gotten to know in a small prayer and discernment group over the summer. He carried the complicated details of my faith story in his heart, and I knew his struggles, too. I tipped the cup to his lips. The chalice in both of our hands at once—the Lord there between us—we were in communion with one another.
I kneeled a little lower to reach a toddler next. She stretched out the thin, round wafer in her hand and dipped it in the cup. When she sucked the wine off the bread and reached out again, her father gasped. Her mother cried out and I just laughed.
Who doesn’t want a second helping? We come to the feast hungry and long to be filled, after all.
Here, among family, we reach out for the living water that promises to keep us forever satiated. We hold it out to each other. We offer up another helping every week. We ask for another taste. Together around the table, we dream of the day we will hunger and thirst no more.
Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore, let us keep the feast.
 Luke 22:16
 Isaiah 25:6
 All quotations taken from Eucharistic Prayer D, The Book of Common Prayer (Emphasis mine).
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One thought on “Together Around the Table”
Nicole, this is absolutely gorgeous! Thank you for this reminder. I haven’t partook in Eucharist for over a year. I love to watch the people in my church line up then walk back to their seats, each one a testimony to God’s goodness and generosity. You are that witness, too.