Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Choking on Communion
Years ago, my whole church got choked up during communion.
It was a little country church in southwest Mississippi, located so far out in the woods that the closest member lived a mile from the church building. This church had communion once a month, more frequently that most Baptist churches.
One of those Sundays, I finished my sermon and prepared the people for the Lord’s Supper. After reading scripture about the body and blood of Christ shed for our sins, I raised the cover from the tray with the little juice glasses. The odor almost knocked out the people on the front row. But we just held our breath and started serving it. (What else could I do? Stop the service and say the communion juice stinks?) A lady choked and gagged. Others downed it quickly with a grimace on their faces. We managed to finish, although for a moment I was afraid we were going to have to whistle the benediction instead of singing it, because our lips were so sour.
After the service was over, a lady made a bee-line to “Bennie” (not his real name), the member who had prepared the juice. “Why was the juice so sour?” she wanted to know. He explained to her that he had reused the leftover juice from the previous month. “And where did you get the juice?” she demanded. “From Paw,” was his simple answer.
“Paw,” who shall remain unidentified, was rumored to make homemade wine.
The day we got choked up in worship was funny. What is not funny is when something chokes off worship. Then the church has a problem. If you sing out with joy and somebody tells you that you sing too loud, that can choke your worship. If you shout “Amen” or feel led to raise your hands, and somebody glares at you for it, that can choke your worship. If you are judged by your appearance or clothing and not made to feel welcome, it can choke your worship.
Don’t be the one to choke off another person’s worship. Ephesians 4:30 warns us not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God. I think I’d rather gag on communion juice than do that.