I want to share a few thoughts about being a deacon. I still feel out of place in the role. Given my temperament, I think that feeling will probably never go away. But I’m extremely happy to be doing the job and serving. I’m grateful. At the end of the day, when I clear my head of all the noise and the lingering bits of and pieces of anger that clutter up my head, I honestly WANT to be a good human being and follower of Christ. There are times when the other path seems easier, louder. But that’s just noise. If given the choice, or genuinely forced into the position of having to make a choice between good and evil. I want to choose good. And I reckon that’s a good starting point. I can still feel out of place in the deacon role, but I read Paul’s description to Timothy about the requirements to be an everyday deacon. You can be flawed. I’ve got that covered. I’ll try not to let the flaws guide the decisions. I’ll trust Jesus and His followers to help with clarity.
When I started my deacon duties a few months ago all teary-eyed after the ordination ceremony, I wasn’t sure how best to be useful. So I looked over the deacon service calendar and signed up for the Sunday and Friday night services that had the most empty slots and need for deacon volunteers. Those were Communion days. That gave my wife Heather some consternation because those ARE busy mornings and it is tough for her to corral both daughters during the service. Still, that’s where the need seemed to be. I think I did it three or four months in a row. Then, in February (I think it was February) I was on hand Friday night. I take Communion very seriously. I believe in the social power of ceremonies. I think Communion is the single most important rite for Christians, as simple as it is. But there’s a depth to the mystery of it that wasn’t in my head. That Friday night I was passing out the wine/grape juice to the Friday night group. A guy came up to accept the cup. He looked rough. Dressed clean but, but definitely a rough man who at times been a hard man. Maybe he was a little hesitant. Maybe I was. I reached into the tray to get him a cup. The cup was stuck.
I pulled on it.
It was still stuck.
I pulled a little harder.
The plastic cup shattered and sprayed us both with grape juice.
I stood there for a second in a momentary shock. I made eye contact with the guy. He shook his grizzled head as if to say, “That’s how it goes sometimes”. I shook my head with a resigned grin, breathed, and said, “Sorry, Brother”. And gave him a second plastic cup and voiced the words, “This is the blood Christ shed for us both.”
When we were done passing Communion to the congregation, Joe gathered us back at the front of the pews and gave the deacons the wine and the bread. I was a still rattled. I stood next to Cheryl. To receive the bread she cupped her hands openly and humbly to receive the bread that Joe passed to us. There was something in the way that she cupped her hands that was thoughtfully submissive and deeply humble and deeply grateful. And I was suddenly shaken by it.
I felt completely unworthy.
I took the bread and the wine given to me and I cried. No open tears, mind you but I cried.
I also started thinking about the depth of the Communion we were sharing with each other and that grizzled man who shared Communion with me in the pews, and how it was connected Communion to Communion, hand to hand, piece of bread to piece of bread, cup of wine to cup of wine, all the way back to the first Communion. Cheryl received the bread from Joe, who had received the bread from Nina, who had received the bread from Renee or Emily or Carol. And the passing of the bread and the wine goes back hand to hand to hand to hand, generation to generation to generation to generation, until Jesus Himself shared the wine with His Apostles. And here’s what shook me. I read a lot of popular science books. I don’t read text books. I read the simplified books with the essential concepts like Brian Greene’s “The Elegant Universe”, and not the hundred page mathematical theorems and proofs. I’ve read in different sources that at the deepest quantum sub-atomic level the bits and pieces of atoms and quarks and other tiniest bits of matter and energy that can exist are constantly moving about from object to object. When the matter and energy encounter one another they become entangled and entwined in ways that scientists can describe but cannot understand and they stay entangled and entwined forever. When objects and living things are together there is a constant flow of this entangled and entwined matter and energy between the two. When you are with someone or something, whether you want to or not, you are sharing this entangled and entwined matter and energy. So . . . the bread Joe shared with Cheryl had part of Joe, and part of Nina, and part of Renee, and part of Emily, and part of Carol, and so on and so on and so on until you shared part of the Apostles and part of Jesus Christ himself who shared his body and blood and came to explain it to us and was murdered.
The bread and wine we share at Communion IS the body and blood of Christ.
And that completely freaked me out.
I was still freaked out on the next Sunday morning when I was back on deacon duty about to give out Communion wine again to another gathered congregation. All because of Cheryl’s very beautiful hands.