“I always pray before I start,” Melissa told Lindsey, who closed her eyes and bowed her head. “Heavenly Father, bless our hands this morning as we prepare these elements for your supper. Amen.”
Lindsey looked up and accepted a stack of tiny plastic cups.
“Just put these in the tray while I put the wafers on the plates. Then we can fill the cups with juice.”
Lindsey’s forehead creased as she placed the cups in the holes. Melissa couldn’t hold back a little smile. She was taking her new responsibility as assistant communion preparer very seriously. As she should, but still, it was cute. When she finished spreading wafers on the plates, Melissa handed her a cup filler.
“You just push on this button and the right amount of juice will go into the cup. Handy isn’t it?” She picked up another filler and poured grape juice into it.
“My mom measures her food before she eats,” Lindsey commented as she worked.
“Really? I wouldn’t think your mom would need to worry about that.” Melissa pictured the pastor’s wife in her size eight jeans.
“She used to be fat. She’s always telling me, ‘moderation in all things.’”
“I guess that’s a good way to live.”
“Is that why we only get a little juice and a tiny wafer when we take communion?”
Melissa paused to think about that. “That’s a good question. I don’t know. Maybe you should ask your father.”
From the sacristy, she could see Reverend Jackson in the sanctuary, smoothing the altar cloth. He was so particular about the communion service each month.
That night, as Melissa heaped mashed potatoes on her plate, she remembered Lindsey’s question. Mashed potatoes were too good to eat in moderation. Why should they moderate how much of Jesus’ body they got? After supper she grabbed her NIV Bible and looked up moderation in the concordance. It wasn’t there, so she moved on to measure. After wading through a list of verses she found Jesus’ prayer for His disciples in John 17:13.
“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.”
Why do we measure out the elements for communion? That doesn’t sound like full measure.
Next morning she got an idea. It was pretty outrageous and might even be sacrilegious, but it felt right. To her surprise, Reverend Jackson loved it. “We’ll move the communion to the end of the service and I’ll preach about God’s abundance. It will be a great illustration.”
Lindsey was excited to recruit her friends for the next communion Sunday. Melissa insisted that she only ask kids who could keep a secret. “We want to surprise the congregation with God’s abundance.”
They slipped out through the sacristy before the sermon and picked up trays with eight ounce cups full of grape juice and baskets with whole loaves of pita bread. They waited in the foyer while Melissa listened at the door for their cue.
“So taste and see that the Lord is good.”
The ushers pulled the doors open and the kids filed down the center aisle to stand in front of the altar. Melissa sat in the back pew to watch.
“Today we’re going to enjoy the abundance of grace that has been poured out on us,” Reverend Jackson explained. “Instead of receiving the communion elements in your seats, please come forward and take them from my assistants. Go back to your seats and celebrate the Lord’s supper with your neighbors.” He prayed, and spoke the traditional words about the body and blood of Christ; then he raised a pita loaf above his head and tore it in half.
“The gifts of God for the people of God.”
They came forward in silence, keeping the solemnity of the sacred moment, but they hesitated before reaching for the big cups and whole loaves. Melissa could hear some whispers as they walked back to their seats. By the time half the congregation had come forward, there was an audible buzz across the sanctuary. Then someone laughed. Someone else said aloud, “God is good.” The response came loudly from several voices at once, “All the time.” More and more people spoke out. “Hallelujah.” “Praise the Lord.” And then they started hugging each other.
Melissa stood and hurried down the aisle for her full measure of joy as the pianist began to play Amazing Grace.
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