It happens like this, on those Sunday mornings when the cup is poured. I don’t think she can help it.
She tries not to cry. I know it, because she’s my dearest friend on the planet. She is up at the front of the church, facing all of us with that golden chalice in her hands. And I know her well enough to see she is trying, not wanting to let it all spill out in front of the rest of us.
She starts strong, with her chin held high, and a smile across her face, because this really is a celebration. So let me assure you: the smile is real.
But she also knows what it cost, and how the cross changed everything– not only for a world reeking with sin, but also for her. That cup she’s holding is personal.
She cradles the gold cup in her hands, like it’s the most valuable thing she’s ever held in her life–not because of what’s on the outside, but what’s on the inside.
Today, I’m the worship leader, at the back of the church, cuing up music from our iTunes library to fill our tiny country sanctuary. The redeemed shuffle forward.
Strains of “I Stand Amazed” fill the pitched roof, and the congregants move in one long line toward the bread and cup. One by one, they rip bread from the loaf, then dip it into the cup she’s holding.
She looks everyone in the eye, every single one of us. I’m watching, how her mouth moves. She’s saying everyone’s name. She’s making it personal:
“The blood of Christ shed for YOU, Rosie.”
“The blood of Christ shed for YOU, Helmer.”
For Wanda. For Bill. For Trish. For Steve. For everyone.
That one song hums in the background, “He took my sin and my sorrow, and made them his very own.”
At last, I’m at the front of the line, grace-hungry.
She holds out the cup, and there’s years of history here between us, years of what it means to be a friend, and to follow Christ beside each other, and to weep and to laugh and to dig into the Word in a very personal way. That’s a whole other story for another day. But this is part of what it means to commune here at the cup. Believers never commune alone.
I take a piece of bread, the body, and I dip it into the cup she holds out to me. I dip into the truth of radical and appalling and very personal grace. And it’s like this —
That God would stoop so low, all the way to Earth, to save us. That holy Father, on the throne, would send His Son to Earth to rescue the fallen ones, the ones who are the spike in His sinew, the thorn in His brow, the spear in His side. He came for the mockers and the haters and the lost and the weary. This is appalling, radical grace from a God who actually loves sinners, who actually loves me and the woman holding the cup. And you…
I look in the eyes of my sweet friend, remembering the ways we’ve been Jesus for each other. It really is personal. I look at how the tears start, and how there’s no apology for it:
“Every time, Jennifer…” she says, “I can’t help it.” The lump is rising in my own throat. And it’s holy, how it happens this way, how she can’t help but cry over grace. I linger long in that one spot, put my right hand on her left hand, and dip into the cup…. She says the words to me.
“The blood of Christ given for YOU, Jennifer.”
And I taste grace once again, the slow burn of wine and the salt from my very own tears, let loose by love.
(Celebrating the joy of friendship in Christ today. Who is your Jonathan? How can you be a friend to someone today? How has someone been a friend to you?)