A couple of weeks ago, I read an article by a man named Ed Morrissey. He had recently become an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion in the Catholic Church. The article did not explain what that is, but I take it that it qualifies him to be what in the United Methodist Church we would call a communion steward. In the article, Mr. Morrissey described the emotions he felt when he served communion for the first time. The article can be found here.
Reading the article, I was reminded of the first time I gave communion to a congregation. I had started seminary, but had not received an appointment in the United Methodist Church yet. Instead, I was serving as an interim pastor in the United Churches of Christ of Wessington Springs and Templeton. I was never a member of the United Church of Christ, but as an interim pastor there, I was able to get a license which allowed me to give communion there.
I still remember how I felt the first Sunday I gave communion in those churches. I was every bit as nervous as Ed Morrissey says he was, if not more so. Part of that was just the technical aspects of it. There is a substantial liturgy involved, after all, and I didn’t want to stumble around looking like a fool. There was more to my nervousness than that, though.
The reason I felt so nervous about giving communion was that I felt so unworthy to do so. What did I think I was doing up there? What right did I have to be giving Holy Communion? I was going to say some words, give people some bread and some grape juice, and that was somehow going to make this into something meaningful and important? This was going to somehow be one of God’s means of grace? Who did I think I was, anyway?
Eventually, though I came to realize something. The reason I felt so unworthy is that I was. I still am. So is every other pastor, minister, priest, or anyone else who offers Holy Communion to someone. My saying some words does nothing. My giving people bread and grape juice does nothing. I have no right to pretend otherwise.
Despite that, though, something still happens. It has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with God.
God somehow uses me, just like God somehow uses everyone else of any other Christian faith who gives Holy Communion. Despite our unworthiness, God still uses us to give instruments of God’s grace to people. God also, despite our unworthiness, gives grace to each of us who takes Holy Communion. On both ends of the sacrament, nothing happens because of who we are. Everything happens because of who God is.
It is a privilege for me to be allowed to give Holy Communion. It is a privilege for each of us to be allowed to take it. When we have Communion next Sunday, let’s thank God for that privilege and open our hearts to receive God’s grace.