“[Some mortals] say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.” – C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
We took our seats – a cozy, crooked circle of friends.
Faces warm from laughing over some joke or another, bellies full with cake & coffee. We sat on couches, hardback chairs, an old church pew, the floor. We sat in warm light, in that little room, waiting to commune with one another in a new way. We sat eager and nervous, in anticipation.
The bread and the wine were there on the table. Soft round loaf on a small plate. Rich red in a white pitcher.
We were welcomed and we were wanted and we were there to worship the King together, in a tiny living room, late at night, children tucked away in beds.
“What is your first memory of God?”
We quieted. Then one by one, we went around the cozy, crooked circle and we offered our answers.
“I went to church in the womb – but I can remember Bible stories as a child.”
“I think maybe as a teenager, somebody invited me to their church.”
“Singing a hymn and knowing I was being moved by something Other.”
“My first memory of God? Hate. He was letting things happen to me that never should have happened. And I hated Him.”
We come from broken homes and broken hearts and broken dreams, gathered now around the bread – the body broken for us. We sat in our circle fragile and strong, shattered and mended, weary and hopeful.
When the bread was offered, he said, “Confess now – as you take this bread – who you once were and who you now are. Make it your own, but confess publicly. ‘God, I was once _______. But praise You, now I am ________.”
And we took the bread and we tore it off and passed around the plate.
“Thank you God for rescuing me from a life that surely would have destroyed me and transferring me to your Kingdom.”
“Thank you that I don’t have to be good enough anymore, because Jesus was once and for all sufficient – more than good enough.”
“God, I was lost from You – thank you for saving me.”
And it went on and on. Confessions and communion and the public declaration that we belong to a King so tender and so gracious we can no longer be named by the past, by the brokenness, by the wounds. We praised Him together and we sang in gratitude.
Then, “When did God become real to you?”
And we quieted again.
Our answers ranged from radical transformations to meeting Jesus in a car accident. From the falling apart of things we held dear to “I met someone who really loved Jesus – and I realized this could be real for me, too”. From “I confessed as a child that Jesus was Lord” to “He courted me for a long time before I fell in love with this King”.
We were children of wandering, children of going our own way, children of wrath – and in many different ways spanning multiple decades, King Jesus intersected our hell-bent hearts and He took our faces in His hands, “This is my blood – poured out for you once and for all. Be mine, be free, be whole in Me, child.”
The wine came and we served each other one at a time, “The blood of Christ for you, friend.”
Husbands served wives, friends served mentors, mother served daughter.
We drank in remembrance.
We drank in remembrance that our vision is no longer on self, it is on a Mighty God. We drank to honor the death of the King who saved us, because of His rich mercy. We served one another the cup because no longer do we walk alone, busted and frustrated and confused – we walk together, communing with True Love, with a new Life indwelling us, so capable and able.
The cozy and crooked circle of friends became something more that night. Not because there were tears and songs, though there were. And not because anything was added to our salvation or hearts, for we are saved wholly and completely. But because when two or more are gathered at that table – when we confess and we praise and we share our stories over the bread and the wine, the power of God’s work in His people is manifested in that communion.
Our stories matter.
They mattered that night as we laughed and sniffled through the confession and they matter this week as we trudge through the weariness of the daily grind. Our stories tell of hearts distant and quiet that were brought near by the power of Christ. Our stories tell of lives beat to dust that were restored and nurtured by the love of God. Our stories tell others Keep breathing. Keep walking. Keep battling and asking questions and shaking your fists at the heavens, yes, even that – because there is HOPE.
We sat there with the bread and the cup, telling a story greater than ourselves. It is a Story that matters, a Story that offers the hope of reconciliation and communion with God. And we will keep telling the Story until He comes.
“And one day, when he comes back to rule forever, the mountains and trees will dance and sing for joy! The earth will shout out loud! His fame will fill the whole earth – as the waters cover the sea! Everything sad will come untrue. Even death is going to die! And he will wipe away every tear from every eye. Yes, the Rescuer will come. Look for him. Watch for him. Wait for him. He will come!” – Isaiah, excerpt from the Jesus Storybook Bible