A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Imperfect Thanksgiving Meal

Sometimes we church people take  ourselves way too seriously.  We attend church, follow the bulletin, and go through the motions.  That's all well and good but sometimes we do all of these things and still miss the joy of being in the house of the Lord.

During today's staff chapel worship, the staff member who was leading our time of worship helped us to experience the joy of the Lord in ways that she didn't anticipate.  She began by reading Psalm 100, a wonderful psalm of thanksgiving.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.  Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing.  Know that the Lord is God.  It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.  Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.  Give thanks to him, bless his name.  For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

As is our staff chapel tradition, the person who leads the worship, also provides the communion elements of bread and juice.  Before the staff members came forward to receive the Sacrament, she cautioned us, "The juice might not taste right because it's a little old." There were a few snickers from staff members as we thought about the communion juice possibly  having a little kick in it.

Quickly, we composed ourselves as we began to form a line to receive the Sacrament. The staff member served us by holding the bread and the filled chalice of expired grape juice. Usually the line to receive communion moves rather swiftly as each person tears off a piece of bread, dips it into the chalice and communes, but not this time.

The first person in line attempted to tear off a piece of bread but no matter how much she tried, the piece she was grabbing just wouldn't tear off.  That's when I heard the staff member who brought the communion elements say, "Oh, I probably shouldn't have bought sour dough bread to use for communion!"

This prompted more giggles and laughter as all of us wondered if we might each need a pair of tweezers to use on this stubborn type of bread. Finally, the piece ripped off and the first person in line dipped it into the expired grape juice.

The next person in line had the same problem.  After he worked at it for a few seconds, the staff member who was holding the bread said these words of encouragement to him, "Good luck."  I have received Holy Communion all of my life and I don't ever remember hearing the communion officiant say the words, "Good luck!"

Again, more laughter.  Finally, after everyone had communed, we regained our composure and shared in a closing prayer. 

One thing is for sure.  We will never forget this staff chapel worship service when we used sour dough bread and expired grape juice. It was like God was saying to us, "When things don't work out the way you want, you can still be filled with joy." 

Holy Communion is also known as the Eucharist which in the Greek means "thanks." Holy communion is a thank you meal.  Joy and thanksgiving go hand in hand.

This Thursday, as we gather around the table for the great big meal with family and friends, don't worry if the stuffing is a little too dry or the rolls stayed in the oven ten minutes too long.  It just may be God's way of helping us to not take ourselves too seriously.

All we need to remember is to enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.

Happy Imperfect Thanksgiving!

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