The Blood of Christ Shed for You

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This past year, church hasn’t been easy for me. It’s been a lot of seeking, not a lot of finding, and never being able to put my finger on what, precisely, I was looking for. You could call me “picky”, a real “Cafeteria Christian”, but that is only half the truth. I still go because I want to find God there. Yet 99.9% of the time, I just find myself vexed- hot and bothered by all the little things.

 

I wish I could better articulate what it is that throws me off in church. Most of it is mixed up in my past experiences. Some of it is their failure to meet my sky high expectations. But in the moment, right or wrong, I feel justified in my cynicism and that righteous feeling becomes the steel grid through which every song and rhetorical flourish is harshly filtered through.

 

I can tell you what makes me feel okay in Church. Trust.

 

Thank God my brother is a pastor.

 

Even though it’s a little ways away, I drive out to his church most Sunday nights and listen to him preach. I still come with my cynical stick, my instinctive edginess towards praise and worship, but I can really hear his words when he says them, because I know his heart. I trust him more than anyone else with a sermon.

 

I’ve gotten to know some of his coworkers, too, who are all incredibly gifted and kind. I’ve watched them move with tact, making sure all the newcomers feel welcomed and safe without feeling pressured to participate.

 

Apparently, though, I am no longer a newcomer.

 

I was just quietly sneaking my way, five minutes late, into the sanctuary when she called my name.

 

“Hey Ben- Hey Ben- could you serve communion tonight?”

 

I actually laughed, to which she responded,

 

Well, could you?”

 

Shoulders tensed up to my ears, I responded slowly:

 

Yeah, sure…

 

I have never served communion and to be honest, I thought to do so required some kind of certificate or training or in the least, a reputation for putting in hours in ministry. It’s supposed to be a privilege, right? Privileges like these are earned. I have not earned this. I deserve detention for all those early departures. For the zero cents I’ve put into the plate.

 

The series Matt (my brother) was preaching on was on grace, that indefinable element to Christianity that sets it apart somehow. God came down. Matt said. He came to dwell amongst us. And He is for us.

 

He went on to talk about Luke 7, the story of Jesus going to the home of Simon the Pharisee for dinner and not being welcomed as they would anyone else. They put the chill on, ignoring him when he walked in, not greeting him or taking his cloak or washing his feet, to in effect let him know the length of their arms keeping him at a safe distance. To let him know they didn’t buy into Jesus craze.

 

Then the (likely) prostitute shows up, who (likely) met Jesus before. She rounds the room, uninvited but unconcerned about it, and falls to his feet, washing them with her tears, drying them with her hair, pouring them in the perfume she (likely) saved for her tricks.

 

In what became a defining mark of Jesus’ ministry, he defends the woman from Simon the accuser. Simon calls her sinner, Jesus calls her saved. He looks at her with (likely) the most proud and grateful eyes. Go in peace, he says.

 

My cue.

 

I waited for the signal of the start of communion. The moment the co-pastor held up the broken bread, I saw five others rise out of their pews, make their way around to the corner table where plates and goblets awaited us.

 

I walked, uneasily, down to the front, carrying the cup trembling with grape juice, and stood at the spot next to my partner, who, I gathered, was quite comfortable- possibly excited.

 

Then the people of God came down.

 

I knew the words to say without instruction.

 

The blood of Christ shed for you.

 

And I knew to look into their eyes, even though eye contact takes courage for me.

 

The blood of Christ shed for you.

 

And it’s here where the moment stops and sharpens into an impression.

 

Me. A gay sarcastic skeptic suspicious of the institution, worried sick that God is actually more menacing than he lets on. Me. Standing front and center.  Holding the cup. Lifting it up and out. Me.

 

Me, often speechless in prayer. Often unable to provide a simple answer to those who are seeking and wondering about the faith I say I belong to- now speaking a simple statement of incomprehensible significance. Words I felt I could almost follow out of myself and into the lives of the community, of the church. Words I suddenly said with more seriousness than I have been able to convey authentically since I don’t know when. Me.

 

The blood of Christ shed for you.

 

And you.

And you.

And you.

And you.

And you too.

 

And it’s not like I went back to the pew and found my cynical stick turned into a plowshare, I was still imperfect me. But, and here’s the thing, I found my faith embodied in a way I didn’t know it could be. These broken hands holding the gift of life. This sarcastic mouth speaking the holy words to a hundred thirsty people. And it does something to you, this Sacrament, moves you to the point of held back tears. To unsteady hands. A feeling you can’t quite pin down.

 

It’s the grocery bought bread and juice, just plain grains and sugar, offered up like diamonds. It’s the imperfect people shuffling down the aisle with their pride and their fear, their capacity to do harm and to give life, their uncertain feet leading them to me, the most unlikely of them all. It’s the magic, moving into and through this very moment and somehow, changing everything.

 

It’s as if your unsuitable soul is stunned into silence, for just a second, shoulders still heavy with their chips when the voice of compassion breaks through:

 

This is my blood shed for you.

Yes, I mean you.

Always, always, always, for you.