Tonight, at a village Baptist church, it is communion. The sermon has been preached and now a different atmosphere falls. Solemnity, reverence, hush. A deacon leads a prayer of thanksgiving, recalling perhaps the agony of Christ on the cross, the disbelief that it was possible that he went through that suffering even for me, even though I still drove nails through his hands and feet with every sin I committed today.
And now let us examine ourselves, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord”.
So, the guilt. What sin have I committed that I cannot think of now to confess? Why am I not on the verge of tears recollecting the sacrifice of my Lord?
And while ‘nothing happens’ at communion, no magic, no Catholic turning of bread and wine into body and blood, yet there is an atmosphere that says, this is different, that a particularly intense experience is required. As Charles Haddon Spurgeon put it, “At all times when you come to the communion table, count it to have been no ordinance of grace to you unless you have gone right through the veil into Christ’s own arms, or at least have touched His garment, feeling that the first object, the life and soul of the means of grace, is to touch Jesus Christ Himself”.
So, should I or should I not take communion. Will I be eating and drinking judgment on myself?
As a teenager, communion left me stuck, just like the back of my shirt to the varnish on the pew on a sunny summer Sunday.
Twenty years later, I am returning to an Anglican Eucharist at a “modern Catholic” parish, week on week. Regularly turning up fairly sure I am not in a fit state to receive communion. Yet by the end of the liturgy finding myself willing to get up out of my seat, walk forward, kneel and ask to receive something from God, saying, this is how little my faith is, but I’m stretching out my hand to receive something from you. And week by week, something indefinable happens. I begin to feel that I am in a relationship of a kind with God, that my state of mind matters less than the action of God.
Twenty-five years later, I am regularly meeting with a group of people, some ‘orthodox’ believers, some not, none ordained, on a Tuesday evening in a cafe. I instinctively feel two things: that we are missing something if communion is absent from our meetings altogether and that I am free to share bread and wine with these people, because the Jesus we are seeking to follow has told us to.
Am I wrong?