I Stand Amazed in the Presence

October 22, 2012 | 24 comments

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?)

by | October 22, 2012 | 24 comments

24 Comments

    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Kelli, for being here.

      Reply
  1. L.

    I love my congregation, which happens to be a place where trays are passed along the pews. This … this is why I am an occasional visitor at a place where the cup of salvation is held out to us, one by one.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Hi L., Glad you’re here. Our communion service varies. Sometimes, we line up at the front, and take wafers and tiny cups. Other times, we dip into the cup. I really like that. It feels very … personal, especially the actual ripping from the loaf.

      Reply
  2. Danielle

    Once again Jennifer, your words resonate with me! I have been a christian for over 30 years and have taken communion practically my whole life. In our last stop (Harrisonville,MO) I truly learned to “experience” communion. I, like your friend, would weep every single time I offered communion. I too would start strong, but as the faces appeared before me, some of their stories I knew, some I did not, the tears would start. It always ended the same, me everwhelmed by Gods grace and only able to offer the cup with no words, only tears. Communion will never be the same again and I am eternally grateful!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Oh, Danielle! What a beautiful sharing. Do you ever hear people say, “We shouldn’t do communion every week, because then it won’t be special.” I cannot disagree ENOUGH. I would take communion daily, if it were offered. Heavenly Father, Never let me see Your Table as anything less than your love poured out. Let me always see it as special, personal, an immeasurable gift. Amen…”

      Reply
  3. Patricia (Pollywog Creek)

    Ohhh….Jennifer…..I so know this. I’ve been that girl receiving and serving communion since my first Emmaus weekend almost twenty years ago. Amazing love how can it be – that Christ my King died for me. *tears*

    Are not our sisters in Christ one of the most precious gifts? Oh how I love the Body of Christ.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Patricia,

      Communion at my own Emmaus weekend was life-changing. I suddenly viewed communion in a whole new way. At one weekend, one woman was so touched by the time at the table, she asked if she could take home the leftover bread!

      And, FYI: the woman in this story? She is the woman who brought me to the Emmaus weekend… So we are linked that way, too.

      Some day, I would love to approach the table of grace with you, Patricia. And if not on this side of Heaven, on the other. Love you, friend!

      De Colores…

      Reply
  4. ro.ellott

    I love the picture…and the burn of the wine and salt of my tears…oh how cleansing and healing His Body is…especially when we have deep communion with Him and with others. blessings to you~

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thanks, Ro. The picture of us is from a vacation we took a couple years ago, and it’s an overlay on top of my daughter’s hands, holding a communion wafer. I was afraid it might a little irreverent, with my cackling like a hyena there. And then I thought, NO. Because this is the true joy of friendship, the depth of a friendship entwined with Christ.

      Reply
  5. Becky

    Oh, Jennifer. I dare say that I will never approach communion the same way after reading your words. It IS so personal and sacred and amazing. How have we allowed it to be so normal? I adore how you take the black and white world and paint it all color and high-def. Thankful for you across all these miles!

    Reply
  6. Helen Murray

    Oh. This is lovely. I had tears in my eyes.
    How marvellous. How wonderful. Thankyou.

    Reply
  7. Elizabeth Stewart

    You made me want to be there, in your little country church with your, sharing in the celebration of His broken body and shed blood.

    Reply
  8. Lynn Morrissey

    This is so beautiful, Jennifer, and I find it a startlingly fresh, unexpected insight on Communion (and of course so breathtakingly written!) Like you, when my pastor said *my* name as he gave me the bread and the cup recently, the Lord’s Supper took on a very personal meaning for me. Yes, I had always taken it personally, but this was different. No one had ever said *my* name before. What I did not expect to read was your comments on your deep friendship not just w/ Christ, but this woman. I have only recently expressed this on another blog, but a life-long friend (of my adulthood) has severed a friendship of 37 years, and I have no idea why. It is an incalculable pain, and reading about your nurturing friendship stands in stark contrast. THis is the type of Jonathan-David friendship I *thought* that we had. There has been a ripping of heart flesh (mine) as she has chosen to let me go. Yet, I realize that it is not only sin, but our pain which Jesus bore on the Cross. When I participate in His Communion, I realize I am also *communing* with the greatest friend I will ever have, which gives me the grace to let a lesser friendship go. Thank you for sharing!
    Love, Lynn

    Reply
  9. Alecia

    Amen for a radical God and his grace and mercy.
    We took communion like that for the first time this year at our new church, at first I was a little unsure, but it felt very personal and I liked that. And the sense of community and communion was very strong. It’s now one of my favorite ways to take communion.

    Reply
  10. HisFireFly

    and I too spill tears each and every time

    Reply
  11. Chelle

    Wow…I don’t think communion will ever be the same for me again. Your story is so real! Thank you for sharing this with us.

    Reply
  12. Amy Sullivan

    Thanks for taking us to communion with you.

    Reply
  13. Linda

    A friendship bound with cords of love for each other and for Jesus is a priceless gift.
    This was so lovely Jennifer. And the picture…just beautiful.

    Reply
  14. floyd

    What a blessing from God. To share our hearts with our brothers and sisters in Christ is to share what it is He died for… The grave couldn’t hold Him and our hearts can’t either. It spills forth from our eyes… and His reflection is hidden within our tears.

    Reply
  15. Eyvonne Sharp

    I heard Emily Freeman speak last weekend about finding your art and she told us all to “listen to what makes us cry.” This, Jennifer. This! I couldn’t speak in our small group about the golden colors proclaiming the glory of God without tears and so it is here.

    My preacher husband (who is not an emotional man) wells up every time he says or sings, “He suffered and died alone.”

    Oh friend, how I needed this bit of worship today.

    Reply
  16. David Rupert

    “Grace hungry”. What a great phrase.

    Thank you for sharing your worship.

    Reply
  17. Leslie McNeil

    I Stand In Awe. Holy God, to whom all praise is due, we stand in awe of You. Thankful for your reminder.

    Reply
  18. Dolly@Soulstops

    what a lovely picture of you and your friend, and of God’s grace in both of you 🙂

    Reply

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  1. When you finally listen to the voice that makes you cry | Eyvonne Sharp - [...] talked about it here, how her friend can’t push back the tears when she eats the bread and drinks…

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