Sunday, October 6, 2013. A date which will live in infamy…at least at Augusta Heights.
Needless to say, it was not a day that went according to plan. Let’s put it this way: When the pastor has to be at the door of Radio Shack at 10am to get a part for the sound system, it’s not exactly a “silky smooth” Sunday.
In spite of it all, we managed to get the service going. And with the help of some great worship leaders (and lots of prayer) we found ourselves with the exact atmosphere needed for reverent celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
While the first Sunday in October is a regular communion Sunday for us, we also joined other Christians in celebrating World Communion Sunday. We had a really reverent moment going on that day. Even as the deacons and I fumbled around with the communion plates and who was going where to serve whom (a common phenomena for us), you could sense a real peace and worshipful atmosphere.
Then, it happened. Just as I was serving the bread to the deacons, it happened.
I knew the voice well. Eric called out to break that wonderfully reverent moment. After surviving the carnage and chaos, we had arrived. We set the mood. We focused ourselves on worship. I was really starting to enjoy the moment. And then…Eric happened.
“Rev, Mr. Larry didn’t get no bread back here!”
I had no clue what to do. Can’t pretend it didn’t happen, because Eric wasn’t going to let it go. Larry told me to go on, but now everyone in the room knew that he didn’t get bread. Could I possibly ignore him?
I took the only possible route. I walked back with a tray to make sure Larry had some bread. I did it. I served him. But I did it with exactly the wrong attitude.
It wasn’t that I minded serving, and I certainly didn’t want to leave anyone sitting at a distance from the Lord’s Table. But it broke the mood, ruined the reverence. It totally disrupted the worship after we had overcome so much just to get there.
I wasn’t much good in worship after that. I tried to lead with some semblance of composure, attempted to preach as if I might know what I was doing. But it was a pretty weak effort on my part.
As we were riding home, I tried to reflect on what went wrong that day and what I might do better to insure that it would never happen again. As in, ever…at least not on MY watch! We would not let chaos break our reverence.
Later that night on Facebook, as I was still stewing, I noticed some banter about the morning’s service. Someone posted:
Great morning…thank God for Eric. Those words…”Rev, Larry didn’t get it.” We could write a book about all the beauty in that moment of time.
And in that one sentence, my high-minded self-righteous self-important arrogance came mercifully crashing back to earth.
I—and more than a few others—was captivated by our reverent moment, so much so that we missed it. I wanted my silence, my peace, my reverence so much that I just flat-out missed it.
Most of us would’ve just let Larry sit there with no bread. Few of us would have interrupted the entire service. But not Eric—and his willingness to speak – gave us the most incredible witness to the grace of Jesus Christ that happened all day long.
Without even realizing it, he was completely faithful to the meal, to the day, and to the spirit of worship that I was flailing around trying to create. On World Communion Sunday, where all are encouraged to pull up a chair to the table, he made sure that someone wasn’t left out.
Just when we think that we have things the way we want them and have our plans in motion, Jesus steps in to break the silence and disrupt what we want to show us moments of incredible grace. Jesus reminds us that the bread and the cup are not about us, but about Him.
As we try to execute our grand plans for what church is supposed to be, Jesus can still make His presence known by telling us what church is. And it’s not about us, or what we want, or what we think. It’s about making sure that everyone gets the bread. It’s about sharing God’s grace, even if we have to drop our self-centered worship bear witness to that grace.
The grace of Jesus Christ comes to us to make us profoundly uncomfortable. By definition, it disturbs our little world as the Spirit grows us into a place where we see grace in action, and hopefully put that grace in action ourselves—even in the middle of our reverent moments. And our sense of reverence and order should never be an excuse for pushing down a profound act of grace. (See Luke 18:15-17).
So yes, thank God for Eric. Thank God that Jesus, through the power of the Spirit, disrupts our world with the most unexpected examples of living Grace. Thank God for those who are less worried about how the table is set, than they are about moving the plates and rearranging the chairs to make sure everyone has a place at the table.
And may the pastor learn to be more like that.