Welcome to #ATLT, At the Lord's Table: A Conversation, a series of over 50 posts from varying authors about the beautiful, mangled Church. Look for at least two new posts every Monday through Saturday between January 25th and February 22nd. Join us in the conversation? See you in the comments. If communion is an occasion for confession and cleansing of sin before approaching the table, then I was entering crunch time. I was already out of my seat, shuffling reverently forward with the rest physically, but spiritually stuck on the awareness that another member of the congregation, another child of God, was concurrently approaching the table. I knew I could not honestly receive the cup and bread with a grudge in my heart, but this person had hurt me. And I struggled to forgive.
The mellow music played from the front clashed with my stubborn interior dialogue as I walked forward, staring at my shoes. Was I really so proud that I would ask my Father to give me grace, to sustain me with His blood, yet withhold such a gift from my brother? But how was it fair that someone who had wronged me could drink of the same cup without consequence? I had one minute to make up my mind and two simple options: either forgive and receive gratefully, or refuse His feast.
Looking back, this scene stands to represent my overall relationship with the Church. We all file forward to the table of grace, too often judging each other through sideways-staring eyes. But in reality, we are a mangled mess of creatures crawling together toward the altar.
The shrapnel in between us and the table is apparent. The way is cluttered with reservations, experiences of being "burned by the church," remembrances of being let down, of fallen leaders, of saints with secrets. And we are uncomfortable rubbing elbows with those unlike ourselves, those hair-covering conservatives, social justice activists, brazen egalitarians, anyone and everyone who, in our opinion, gives Christianity a bad name.
But if we are to really approach the table, we will find it is the trump card. We cannot celebrate an overflow of grace in our own lives while wishing a drought of mercies on another. We all drink our poison, we all are infected by the same sin, and we all now come to drink its remedy.
I like to think that the Church is rag-tag soup kitchen, a place where dissonant people come to dine together. In our weaker moments we may see false divisions between ourselves, the street-stench homeless and the diamond rich, but in the end, we’re all just beggars telling each other where to get bread.
Stephanie S. Smith is a twenty-something literary publicist, writer, and editor addicted to print and pixels. In addition to her business (In)dialogue Communications, she blogs at www.stephindialogue.com, and tweets @stephindialogue Besides working with words, she enjoys cooking from scratch and muddling her way through the liturgical year.