Communion at the Care Center

One Thursday a month, there's a communion service at the local Care Center. Its official name is "Lutheran Communion" but everyone is invited. The Lutheran pastors in town take turns leading it. Yesterday, it was my turn.

The service takes the form of a traditional Sunday service. A few hymns, the Lord's prayer, the Apostles' Creed, a sermon, and several Scripture readings.

I love Care Center communion services. The sermon experience there is far more participatory than a usual Sunday; people chime right in with their thoughts and responses.

Immediately upon entering the Care Center chapel, I am always awash with a deep awareness of having stepped into a space steeped in wisdom and experience. Those who attend are advanced in years. Some are in wheelchairs. Some folks are able to speak and communicate. Others are not. There are volunteers who help, too.

We gather together and celebrate the presence and promises of God. We worship. I treasure that space and those people.

Toward the end of the service, we always share Holy Communion.

Most participants have a general awareness of what's happening at that point in the worship liturgy. But for those who are experiencing loss of memory, sometimes familiar aspects of worship suddenly become brand new. As if they have never experienced it before.

The communion servers at the Care Center always travel directly to the worshipers, rather than making people come forward. As I was serving communion yesterday, I eventually reached the people seated in the back row.

I sat down beside a woman with shoulder-length gray hair and a light blue sweatshirt.  I imagine she was about 85.

"The body of Christ, given for you," I said.

"Oh." Her eyes widened and she opened her hand to receive the wafer. "Wow. What do I do with it?"

"You can eat it," I smiled. "It's the body of Christ, given for you."

"For me?" she asked. There was a long pause. "I can eat it?"

"Yes, you sure can."

Her responses were not like those of a person experiencing confusion. She displayed the expressions of a person experiencing grace.

"Well, does it cost anything?" she asked.

"No. It's free."

That was the moment I got teary-eyed. It's free. Sometimes I forget, too. God's grace and love and acceptance are all free. We don't have to earn any of it. We just get to receive it. And it's astounding.

Looking down at the circular wafer, she said, "Well, that's really something....I think that sounds really nice."

And then she ate it. Then the volunteer behind me served her the wine, and she drank it.

It was certainly one of the best communion experiences of my life.

Thank you, Jesus, for bread and wine. For love and community. For a shared meal that is always made new. For grace. Astounding, beautiful, amazing, eternal grace.