Monday, March 30, 2009
The Last Stop of the Day
It was the last stop of a long afternoon.
We had been out since just after lunch, bringing communion to people unable to get out to attend worship. It had been a long few hours, having driven all over town and had conversations with nine other people in four different places. Then setting up, praying the Great Thanksgiving, and serving little bites of bread and sips of grape juice to the small gatherings.
It doesn't sound like much, but it is tiring. And so now, at the last stop of the afternoon, I was kind of zoning out. I was ready to be done. I mechanically checked the supplies, seeing that we had enough bread and juice in the portable communion set.
It was a little house and an elderly couple lived there. He is quite hard of hearing and so we had to yell our greetings in his direction. She is not in the best of health and deals with almost contstant pain, but has to take care of him because he is just as bad as her, and he is starting to slip a bit mentally.
She can't leave him alone for very long at a time. Like to go to church or something.
We sat in an uncomfortably warm living room, talking with her and yelling at him, and discussed the weather and "The Shack" and flowers and how she used to read books to school children. And when enough time had passed, I got out the bread, poured juice into the little plastic cups, and turned to the Great Thanksgiving in my pocket book of worship.
"Shall we pray?" I asked.
And they nodded.
I read the prayer for the fifth time that afternoon, and didn't stumble over any words. I even emoted.
At the "Amen," I picked up the tiny plate with pieces of diced bread stacked on it, stood up and took a couple of steps over to where she was sitting. Holding out the bread, I looked into her face. Before I could say, "The body of Christ..." - my voice caught in my throat.
She was crying.
Her cheeks were wet, and tears filled her eyes. Her chin was even quivering just a little. She took the bread gently with her arthritis shaped hands. "The body of Christ is for you," I whispered.
What had happened? For me, it was the fifth Great Thanksgiving of the day; I was tired; it was diced bread and juice, some of which I had just spilled all over the back seat of the car trying to refill that silly little bottle; it was rote; it was me doing my job.
For her, it was Holy Communion.
God showed up in spite of me. For a moment there, she was connected to her church again, connected to God through the sacrament in a real and powerful way. For just a moment there, she wasn't worrying about her nearly deaf husband who was starting down the path to dementia. For a moment there, her chronic pain was not invading every waking thought.
I almost missed it. I don't think I've ever been more keenly aware of my role as a vessel of God's grace as I was upon realizing that moment. Melt me - Mold me - Fill me - Use me. God didn't even move me aside; God just went on ahead as if I wasn't there at all. It seems to me that a whole lot of ministry is just showing up. God does most of it, to tell the truth.
It happened at the last stop of the day.