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Communion fun 101

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By Nancy Kennedy

When I was little I used to play church with my dolls and stuffed animals.

I'd take gooey white Wonder Bread, smash it flat and tear it into round communion wafers. Then I'd pour Kool-Aid into colorful shiny aluminum tumblers, the kind that used to sweat when they're cold, and that was my wine.

I'd say the words, "the body of Christ" and "the blood of Christ," and I'd have my holy snack and then go on to play something else - Chutes and Ladders with my sister or put on my roller skates and skate around the block.

To me, communion was something to play. But still, I always had a drawing toward the sacred. Even when I've been eyebrow-deep in sin and rebellion, the notion of communion, of receiving and remembering the benefit of the body and blood of Jesus, has pulled at me.

At my church, we consider communion a sacrament, a means of grace and a tangible reminder that we can't do life apart from Jesus.

We don't believe that communion is for those who are pure, but for those who are not and know they're not. It's for those who know they're broken and need fixing, who are weak and need strength.

It's for sinners who know they're sinners and who admit they need a Savior.

At my church, we used to do communion the way a lot of churches do, with ushers passing trays of broken crackers or bites of bread and trays of tiny cups of grape juice down the aisles for people to take and eat and drink at their seats.

I'm not sure when we changed, but now we walk to the front of the church, take a piece of bread from a person who looks into our eyes and says, "The body of Christ, broken for you." Then we dip it into a cupful of real wine held by a person who says, "The blood of Christ, shed for you."

Sometimes the servers use our names - "Nancy, this is Christ's blood, shed for you."

I love that. I love the getting out of my seat and moving toward the front of the church singing songs about the blood of Jesus. "What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus" and "There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel's veins. And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains."

I think that's my favorite part, being reminded of having my sins washed away.

Last summer, I decided I loved communion so much that I wanted to be a communion server. I told my pastor I couldn't think of anything better than to say about 50 times in a row, "This is the body of Christ, broken for you."

I wanted to be reminded that communion is coming together as a body of believers to eat and drink. It's not a solitary act, alone in a bedroom with just dolls and stuffed animals. Rather, it's like a family dinner table, a feast of grace, where we join with our Father and remember who we are - his children - and who he is - our Redeemer.

A few months ago, we added a time of staying up front after receiving communion, to kneel or stand, to pray or to praise.

From my vantage point as a server, I get to watch unspoken dramas unfold. Couples holding hands or wrapping their arms around each other, people on their knees, bowing their heads to the stage steps, then rising to wipe away tears or walk back to their seats smiling.

The first time I served they put me at the grape juice station. That's for people who don't want wine.

At first I was disappointed because I didn't think I'd get many "customers," but I was wrong. Plus, the grape juice station also has bread, so not only did I get to tell people that Jesus shed his blood for them but that his body was broken for them, too.

And I had a lot of customers, so many that I smiled through the whole thing and smiled all the way home, because God had smiled on me.

Maybe that's what communion is about, at least partially. A reminder that God smiles on his own.

So, pass the bread - our sins are forgiven! Break out the wine - we are washed clean! It's time to eat, drink and be merry - our guilt is taken away.