Growing up communion at my church was always laced with fear. From the gender segregated foot washing (which always made me uncomfortable) to the strict admonitions that over the full meal we were to A: only talk about religious things (like what our life would be like together in Heaven) and B: not eat too much/be fussy about the food because this was about worship not about being full, to the reminder before taking the bread and cup that if you did it with sin in your heart God would smite you.
For a kid who was really concerned with following the rules and doing things right (and was already pretty sure that smiting was in the cards) this made for a rather stressful evening.
Then I’ve carried that fear along with the strident rules about non-Roman Catholics and Eucharist with me and so sometimes attending Mass in a Roman Catholic church is difficult. I don’t do it very often but when I’m on retreat or when there is a funeral I go. And I sit there and I wonder if I should take the Eucharist.
But the other day I had this realization: Jesus said that those who are hungry should come and eat. And when I am in church, I am hungry. Hungry for the eucharist, hungry for community, hungry for sacraments and mystery. And if I am hungry then I should go and eat.
It’s not about what the church does or doesn’t say. It’s not about the fear in my heart from a toxic religious upbringing. It’s not about anything other than hunger and welcome.
There is this lovely passage in Isaiah 55 (verses 1 and 2) that was read yesterday:
All of you who are thirsty, come to the water!
Whoever has no money, come, buy food and eat!
Without money, at no cost, buy wine and milk!
Why spend money for what isnâ€™t food,
and your earnings for what doesnâ€™t satisfy?
Listen carefully to me and eat what is good;
enjoy the richest of feasts.
So if you are hungry, go and eat. And if someone tries to keep you from the table, find another table. Or make your own table.
Jesus calls the hungry, without fear and without exception. If you are hungry (or even think you might be hungry), you are welcome at the table.
ps: I am not a fan or an advocate of staying in unaffirming churches. In fact I think everyone should leave them. But on the rare occasions when I find myself in one I know that I have just as much right to be there as anyone else. And I am just as welcomed by God as anyone else. So this isn’t a call to stay in your unaffirming church, but it is a call to, when you’re at the next family funeral, take communion if you want to.