The Mystery and Glory of Communion with God

My sister, after years away from the faith, came home to Christ in the Lutheran church. The transition back into the church world, while it was welcomed, still had its moments. She’d dealt with a lot in her life and carried a lot of shame. As a Lutheran she took communion every Sunday but she noticed that communion just made her feel more guilty. She often thought as she’d go to the altar, “I’m not worthy.” But Lutherans take communion every week, so every week she had to deal with what it means to be invited to the table as a person with a past.

Then one Sunday, something shifted. She was at the railing to receive the elements, but the person with the wine was moving slowly so she’d gotten the wafer but had to hold it in her mouth while she waited for the wine. Kneeling there with that wafer melting in her mouth, a memory floated forward. It was a moment she’d had with our father when he was in his last days on earth. He was home with hospice care and she’d been with him for days but was about to go back home to another state. This was the last time she would see him alive and they both knew it. They told each other good-bye and she left crying but before she could get out of the driveway, someone waved her back into the house. Daddy had asked for her again. He wanted her to bring him two pieces of ice. My father hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for days so this was sort of an odd request. My sister went and got the ice and took it to him and he took one piece and told her to keep the other one. And he said, “Now, you go on home but when you leave I want you to put your piece of ice in your mouth and I’ll put my piece in my mouth.”

That was it. He didn’t say any more than that but as my sister left the house with that ice in her mouth, she said, “I knew exactly what he meant. He meant that even if we were separated, if we were doing the same thing at the same time then we were still connected.” So it seemed to my sister that her daddy was saying, “Here’s something tangible to hold on to, and when you do this I will meet you in this act.”

That whole memory came to my sister while she knelt there at the communion rail with the body of Christ melting into the roof of her mouth., “That’s when I got it,” she told me. “Because if I’m holding this in my mouth right now, then Jesus must be saying to me that he’s here and I’m here in the very same space. The real Jesus. I’m in his presence and he is in mine. He’s saying, ‘I’m not leaving you. It might look like I’m leaving, but I’m not leaving. This is not the end.’”

Ever since, my sister tells me, she revels in the opportunity to take communion. Because she so wants to see Jesus.

Read More


I went to church on a Saturday morning to meet a group of folks who wanted me to offer communion to their group.  The first person I saw was one of the leaders. She drove right up next to me in the parking lot, rolled down her window, and said, “The dog ate the communion bread.”  I thought she was joking, but she looked at me with dead seriousness and said, “No, really.  How can a miniature dachshund need that much communion bread?”

What a powerful analogy for what has happened to so many people in this world.  So many people I know are such good people, such intelligent people, but somewhere along the way, something happened.  Either they got hurt by the church, or they found such hypocrisy among Christians that they couldn’t see the point of it.  It is as if the dog has eaten their communion bread. Its as if Satan, or life, or fallen human beings – the world has stolen their right to be in communion with God.  And the terrible result for too many of us is that we no longer trust God.  We are suspicious that maybe he does not have our best interests at heart.  We secretly wonder if, given an inch, God would try to make us walk a mile we don’t want to walk.

After all, if God is so good, why is life so hard?elohim

This question baits the enemy of our souls.  If he can get us to suspect God’s motives, he can yank us right down into misery and anger.  All the anger, fear and loneliness we feel has a single root cause.  It grows out of a basic distrust in God — in his power to provide, in his sovereignty, in his desire to do for us.

The antidote is in the names of God.  We discover in his names the character of the One worthy of our trust.  Yahweh:  “I Am.”  Emmanuel:  “God With Us.”

Figuring out who God is is fundamental to how we relate to him.  Thomas Merton says: “Whether you understand it or not, God loves you, is present in you, lives in you, dwells in you, calls you, saves you and offers you an understanding and compassion which are like nothing you have ever found in a book or heard in a sermon.”

Jeremiah Smith says this: There is nothing more important, no higher priority in your life, than for you to figure out who God is. It affects everything else in your life. You choose how to approach situations in your life based on your understanding of who God is and what He’s like.

In the quest to know him, where do we begin?  I believe we begin where the Bible does, with the name that assures us God is enough.  Whatever our sin, brokenness, problems, whatever else in our lives vies for our attention, God is enough.

Elohim.  Enough.

Read More